Thoughts on the The Rules of Magic

April 08, 2019


by Alice Hoffman
published: October 10th, 2017 by Simon & Schuster
5 out of 5 stars
sunlit juice by henry jamison


So, my finishing this novel was followed by quite a whirlwind. There was so much emotion then a really fun discovery that I'll get in to at the end.

I finished this book in the middle of a park with tear stains on my cheeks and a shattered, but mending, heart. Though I never experienced really anything in the book, I felt really connected to it. I'm sad to admit that this was purely a cover-buy. It was absolutely gorgeous sitting on the bookstore shelf, so with a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, I decided it would look much better on my shelf. This was also my first realistic fiction novel, as well as one of my first few truly adult novels, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the whimsy.

I think I just read this book at the right time in my life. Books that stick with us the most are usually the ones that speak to us while we're going through something or just doing some growing. My appreciation for this novel definitely stemmed from reading it during this time that I'm experiencing: I'm twenty, I'm trying to decide where I want my career to go, and I'm navigating the emotions of being young and figuring out life. Reading this book was a continuous reminder that things will never go as planned, that love and friends are unexpected and need to be let in even if it feels hard, and to live a lot more and worry a lot less. Because of what it was to me over the last week, a week where I was down and questioning everything, I'm really sad for it to be over. I thought about flipping back to the first page the moment I finished the last, but I couldn't ruin the initial magic of it just yet.

If you've never felt that kind of connection with a book, it's a little hard to explain. It can be one of the worst books you've ever read, but you just see something so familiar in it that draws you in. This book makes me want to live a little differently and a little lighter.

The Rules of Magic, I learned after finishing it, is a prequel to the classic Practical Magic book and movie. Here we follow the lives of Franny and Jet, and their brother Vincent, from when they first begin in experiment with their powers to when they take in the two young girls. We learn all the rules of the Owens witches and their quirky beliefs that make the real world feel slightly whimsical. I found their trust in love the most moving.

Following Franny, Jet, and Vincent through their lives was one of the most creative and inspiring book plots I have ever read. Typically, all we get is a glimpse into a short period of time with a character or several years over a series, but watching the lows and the highs of others' lives and how they evolved from each dip meant much more than just a glimpse would have. It was just a peek here and there as they grew older, but each peek held the importance and the emotion of an entire novel.

This is the book I will always recommend to a reader in their late teens to early twenties, or someone older experiencing a tough time, to remind them that things happen but everything happens how it is meant to.

Most of this was an emotional dump, but I feel that reviews of books are far too impersonal most times and I want to share how I connected with the book rather than what I thought of the author's use of space. However, I will mention a few things I thought about he style of the novel. The transitioning between years and ages was nearly seamless and it became clear in the characters' emotions and thoughts that they were developing even if there sometimes wasn't a time stamp. How the book was laid out also played into this. Instead of actual chapter, the book was split into small passages, sometimes only a page and sometimes as long as maybe 10 pages, then those passages are blocked into parts as something world-altering happens to the characters, signifying a new stage in their lives. Beyond their aging, each character had such pure feelings that I felt them outside of the pages. It's clear that there was so much heart poured into this book. I just can't get over watching all of the characters develop and grow; it was moving.

As for the discovery, that goes back to my mom and brother's love for ancestry. In the most humble way I can say this, my family line is kind of amazing. We have a mix of minutemen, pilgrims, courtesans, and kings. As it relates to this particular novel, we are related to several people involved in the Salem witch trials - only after finishing this book did we discover something that gave my mom and I goosebumps of excitement. We are related to Nathaniel Hawthorne, who originally was a Hathorne that changed his last name to hide his relation to John Hathorne. John was a terrible man of the witch trial age who persecuted and killed "witches," but as it goes in the Practical Magic world, John ends up falling in love with a witch - Maria Owens, the women who births both the line of Owens witches and the family curse. It was also rumored that Nathaniel Hawthorne feared a curse might have been put on his family at the hands of the witches his great-great grandfather had murdered. We are also related to several Willards of the same town and age as the trials through the granddaughter of Hathorne who married a relation of John Proctor that is referenced in The Rules of Magic.

So, it is safe to say that I am clearly a witch. I always have had a ridiculously hard time swimming and staying under water. *wink, wink*

I am well aware that the characters of the Practical Magic world are fictional, I just thought it was a bit of fun to believe that this book might be the tiny possibility of magic I had always dreamed of as a child. It was also funny that my grandmother, mother, and I each came to fall in love with this series individually and in our own way, with them having fallen for the movie and I having fallen for the prequel without knowing.

Anyway, I hope that, even if this doesn't seem like your kind of book, that you will give it a try because it may be what you also needed to experience. If you have read it, I would love to know what you thought of it in the comments or on social media -- all linked at the top of the page.

Thanks for reading,

Taylor  x

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