Synopsis from Goodreads: The Owens family has been cursed in matters of love for over three-hundred years but all of that is about to change. The novel begins in a library, the best place for a story to be conjured, when beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the deathwatch beetle and knows she has only seven days to live. Jet is not the only one in danger—the curse is already at work.
A frantic attempt to save a young man’s life spurs three generations of the Owens women, and one long-lost brother, to use their unusual gifts to break the curse as they travel from Paris to London to the English countryside where their ancestor Maria Owens first practiced the Unnamed Art. The younger generation discovers secrets that have been hidden from them in matters of both magic and love by Sally, their fiercely protective mother. As Kylie Owens uncovers the truth about who she is and what her own dark powers are, her aunt Franny comes to understand that she is ready to sacrifice everything for her family, and Sally Owens realizes that she is willing to give up everything for love.
If you’ve been here a while, you know that Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite writers. I was eagerly awaiting the release of The Book of Magic, the fourth and final book in her Practical Magic series that chronicles the Owens family. I really enjoyed the other books in this series, but in this penultimate one, Hoffman knocks it out of the park.
On the surface, this is a book about magic but there is so much more going on in this story. Hoffman’s characters are 100% human too, with all the baggage that comes with being human. They make mistakes, they make wrong choices, they struggle but they always try to make themselves better and ultimately, this book is about love and who doesn’t need a book about that? The story brings together Gillian and Sally (if you’ve seen the movie, Practical Magic, these are the two sisters played by Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman), as well The Aunts, Franny and Jet. The Aunts’ long-lost brother, Vincent, is also part of this story, as are Sally’s two almost-grown daughters, Antonia and Kylie. The story also ties up some of the loose ends from Maria Owens’s story that is told in Magic Lessons, the first book in the series, that is set in England and colonial America in the 17th century.
I loved the time the author took to research all the “witchy” details in it: Plants that can cure, plants that can harm, “old wives’ tales” about a witch’s powers, superstitions and even references to Shakespeare’s Dark Lady. (Don’t skip the end notes! There are a ton of great reference reads in there.) In the sections describing the ancient texts and grimoires, the land and the plants, the writing is lyrical and lovely. The action scenes are fast-paced and gripping, and I had a hard time slowing down to savor the language since I wanted to find out what was happening as the plot unfolded. By the time I got to the last page, although I know this is the last book in the series, I wasn’t ready to let any of the characters go – a sign of really good writing for me.
This one was a 5-star read for me for all of the things it managed to combine into an entertaining tale. It makes you think about the people in your life you love, and what it means to love yourself.
This is book 16/24 for the Fall Into Reading challenge.