Synopsis from Goodreads: For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.
One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic…
This book was a re-read for me, although it’s been several years since I read it originally. If you haven’t read it and only know the movie (starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman), while it is based on Alice Hoffman’s book, the book is so much more. (That doesn’t stop me from watching the movie every Halloween, but they are definitely different.) This was the original book that kicked off the entire “Magic” series from Hoffman – with the fourth book due out this fall. I’m reading Practical Magic as a run-up book-club read to that release, hosted by the writer on her FB account.
The thing that I love about Alice Hoffman’s writing is that she GETS human relationship dynamics. None of the good relationships are ever easy or simple, or even necessarily ones you would want for yourself, but she examines the good, the bad and the in-between while seamlessly meshing real peoples’ lives with daily magic. Sally and Gillian’s relationship is exactly that. You know they love each other and (as the book unfolds you find out) they will do anything for each other, but as is typical with siblings, they sure can get on each others’ nerves. One of the things expanded on in the book that isn’t really a very big part of the movie is the relationship between Sally’s daughters, Kylie and Antonia. Each has their own personality and their own path, and they are teenage girls on the brink of becoming adults with all of the uncertainty and angst that accompanies that.
All four of the female characters in the book have strong, distinct personas and I think there’s probably a bit of each of them in all of us. I understand Sally best, probably because she and I are the most similar, but I have known many Gillian’s in my life, and I can remember how first love feels as Antonia feels it, and I can remember how gawky and outcast I felt at 13 like Kylie. Beneath all of the plot runs the thread of love, which is a special type of magic in itself, and one Hoffman writes beautifully about.
If you’re a fan of Hoffman’s writing, you’ll probably already be familiar with this book. If you’re not, definitely pick this one up to enjoy.
This is book 12/20 for the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge.