Novel Approach: Alice Hoffman's 'Magic Lessons' revisits the Owens family with new prequel

“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.” — Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic

Lessons can only be learned when an individual is ready to learn them. Understanding and knowledge cannot be forced upon a person. Our latest read takes us to a young witch who travels the world as she learns some of the most important lessons about life and magic.

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

“Magic Lessons” tells the story of Maria Owens, the woman who created the curse that many “Practical Magic” (both book and film) fans will remember doomed the romantic lives of all future generations of Owens women. Readers who fell in love with “Practical Magic” will love reading about the origins of the curse and will gain a better understanding of the obstacles and hardships that drove Maria to cast the desperate curse.

“Magic Lessons” follows Maria’s life from when she was found in the woods by a kindly old witch who raised her to the chance encounter that led her to fall for the wrong man. From the English countryside, Dutch-colonized islands to the grim village of Salem, readers will gain a new perspective as they observe Maria pay witness to the cruelties of love.

At times the story feels a bit long and it can be slow in the second portion of the novel, but it provides readers with a more comprehensive backstory to the Owens family curse. Packed with details about the medicinal benefits of many herbs, Hoffman’s charming prequel story of a woman who learns the trials and wonders of love might find themselves inspired to keep a sprig of lavender in their homes.

From the book jacket…

Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Unnamed Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.

If you enjoy…

Readers who have already exhausted Alice Hoffman’s extensive collection of literary works might enjoy diving into the fantastic world of “Gods of Jade and Shadow.” Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s novel follows Casiopea as she flees her not so charmed life to aid a god’s quest to regain his throne in the underworld.