I packed Alice Hoffman’s THE RULES OF MAGIC on a summer trip to New Orleans, thinking it might be a fun airplane read. I started reading it before takeoff and didn’t even realize that two hours had passed until we landed. I was transfixed.
I took a taxi from the airport to my hotel, dropped off my luggage, and immediately found a coffee shop a few blocks away so I could finish reading. It was hot and humid, muggy and miserable outside. But in my head, it was fall—with a cool, crisp breeze and that sense of magic in the air that always permeates the atmosphere during the month of October. I was transported to a magical 1960s New York City.
THE RULES OF MAGIC follows the lives of the Owens siblings—difficult Franny, thoughtful Jet, and the charismatic, if troubled, Vincent. The trio grow up with an unusual set of household rules, mandated by their mother, who knows that her children are dangerously unique. No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no cats, no candles, no books about magic, no wearing black, and especially no falling in love. Love is a curse in the family, and has been since the 1600s, when matriarch Maria Owens was accused of being a witch after falling in love with the wrong man.
When Franny, Jet, and Vincent visit their Aunt Isabelle in Massachusetts for a summer, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand just how different they are. And try as they might, they can’t seem to avoid falling in love.
If any of this seems oddly familiar to you, it may be because THE RULES OF MAGIC is the prequel to the bestselling novel and popular film adaptation PRACTICAL MAGIC (starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock). But you certainly don’t need to know anything about PRACTICAL MAGIC to love this novel.
It’s a really beautiful story about family and the sacrifices we’ll make for the people we love. The entire cast of characters in THE RULES OF MAGIC feels so lifelike and I love them all for different reasons. Franny because I, too, am the oldest of three, and often feel responsible for my sisters. Jet for her innocence and naivety. And Vincent for his struggle to accept himself and to find a place for himself in a rapidly changing world.
I was spellbound by this novel from page one to page 369. I also love this book for the writing. Hoffman’s sentences are subtle but brilliant and imbued with great depth and emotion. Take this conversation between Jet and her cousin April: “I’m fated to lose everyone I ever love,” April said. “I already know that.” “Of course you are,” Jet responded in her calm, measured tone. “That’s what it means to be alive.”