Book Review – Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Genre: Fantasy

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

Reading an Alice Hoffman novel is like sitting around a campfire listening to someone tell you a story. Before you know it, time slips away and all you can focus on is the journey the storyteller is taking you on.

This is rarely the case, but I saw the movie Practical Magic well before I read Alice Hoffman’s novel. Because of this, I feel like the imagery and storyline was a little harder to critique because I had a clear vision of Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman while reading.

Although the movie and book are not identical. I found that I anticipated what was coming next, and became somewhat focused on the differences between the novel and movie. But I’m not going to let that color my opinions of the novel.

The book opens when sisters Gillian and Sally are young and living with their three aunts. As they grow up, they begin to resent their upbringing, in their own ways, and strike out on their own. Gillian with her transient and exciting life; Sally with her children and their attempt at a “normal” life. 

“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage. – Aunt Frances”

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Have you ever read prose that sounds almost like a song? Almost like someone is talking to you but everything flows and blends together in a beautiful and lyrical way? 

That is what reading an Alice Hoffman novel is like. 

I fell in love with the Owens women – wanted to be an Owens woman. There is no spellcasting or wand waving, but magic flows through each page.

But it’s subtle. If you are coming from reading an overly dramatized young adult fantasy novel (YES PLEASE), then the transition to the softness of this novel may be a little jarring. There is drama, pain, joy – all of it – woven into these pages, but it’s not in the same aggressive way a lot of other fantasy novels are. 

That’s one of my favorite elements – you aren’t ever completely sure if the Owens women are witches or just overly attuned to the world around them. There is definite magic, but it’s so natural, almost. 

I enjoyed the quiet. 

“There are some things, after all, that Sally Owens knows for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.”

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Love was the central theme of this novel (as it is for every Owen’s Family novel), and it reminds us of the importance of being and feeling exactly what you are – always. It was a lovely, peaceful journey with Gillian and Sally. 

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. (The movie is pretty good too!)

Have you read Practical Magic? Let’s talk about it here in the comments or on Instagram.

What I’m Reading – Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

In preparation for Alice’s Hoffman’s Facebook Live event this week where she will discuss Practical Magic, I’ve decided to finally pick up Practical Magic in honor of it’s 25th anniversary.

Facebook LIVE Q&A:
July 28, 2021 @ 5pm EST

I only recently watched the film Practical Magic and read The Rules of Magic (review here), so I’m a new fan of Alice Hoffman – and I’m loving every moment of it. If you haven’t read anything by Alice Hoffman, I highly recommend you give it a try. Her writing is lyrical, like magic.


The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

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…

Book Review – The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Genre: Fantasy Fiction

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

In one word, The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman is enchanting. Full disclosure, I went into reading this after recently watching the movie Practical Magic so the curse of the Owens family was fresh on my mind. Sometimes, with prequels, knowing the fate of the characters can take away from the story, but not here. 

The story begins with Franny, Jet, and Vincent at a young age and their first summer with Aunt Isabelle. Although their mother has tried to hide the truth, the children begin to realize they have a secret – they are witches. With the promises of no spoilers, I won’t provide much more description, but it’s a fun and heartbreaking ride as they each grow up. 

My life ebbs and flows from kind of busy to overwhelmingly busy, so I wouldn’t directly correlate how much I like a book by how fast I read it. However, I did finish The Rules of Magic in 3-4 days. 

Alice Hoffman’s writing style is unique and spellbinding. At first I was unsure of the narrative style, which reminds me of an old story being told around a campfire, but it grew on me within the first few chapters and I was hooked. Spellbinding really is the perfect word because it’s sing-songy and will have you tangled up before you know it. 

Of course, if you have seen Practical Magic and know what the curse of the Owens family is, you know this tale is full of heartbreak and tears. The happy moments are bittersweet and beautiful but don’t carry the same lightheartedness of most stories. The drama throughout the pages is not flashy and overdone, it’s subtle and heart-wrenching. 

I’ll go as far to say this novel is emotionally taxing, but worth every moment of the pain you feel. Because ultimately, this is a story about love and how the only solution to your struggles and heartbreak is to love more.

It really was a fun book to read. It’s also nice to read a fantasy novel about witches that doesn’t involve the apocalypse or some large-scale, life threatening obstacle. They are normal(-ish) people who happen to be witches and are just trying to make it through the day and find a little happiness while they are at it. 

I haven’t read any of Alice Hoffman’s other novels, but I highly recommend this one. I enjoyed it from start to finish. 

Buy The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman here at Old Town Books (Alexandria, VA) or at your local bookstore!

Have you read The Rules of Magic? Let’s talk about it in the comments here or on Instagram.