Saturday, October 10, 2020

Book Review: "Magic Lessons" by Alice Hoffman

Magic Lessons is a well-told, moving story of love, family, and witchcraft.

Alice Hoffman returns with the prequel to The Rules of Magic and Practical Magic, and the story of the Owens family. In this book, which starts in the mid-1600s, a baby girl, Maria, is found abandoned in a snowy field in rural England. She is taken in by Hannah Owens, a kind woman who once had been jailed for being a witch.

Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift, and teaches her “the Nameless Art.” But as Maria grows under Hannah’s tutelage and watches her work with the women who come to her secretly for help, Maria learns that most of their problems have something to do with love, and she vows never to fall in love herself.

But even witches are powerless in the face of love, and it’s not long before she follows the man who betrayed her to Salem, Massachusetts. And while she tries to keep a low profile and help women like her adoptive mother did, ultimately she runs afoul of the fear and jealousy that ruled Salem in those horrible days.

"But even a witch can possess a woman's flaws, and a woman's desires. Maria thought she knew what was to com, but she was wrong. Anyone can fall in love, despite vows to the contrary. Any woman can make a mistake, especially when she is young, and sees the wrong man through a haze so that he appears to be something he's not."

This is a story of two generations of women, both who bore the scars of love gone wrong, yet in different manifestations. It’s a story about fighting your fears and letting yourself believe in the power of love even when you’ve seen it be destructive. But it’s also a powerful story about the fierce love of a mother.

I really love the way Hoffman writes and I have loved the earlier books in this series. While I enjoyed the emotions and the pain and the beauty of this story, because the book took place at such an historic time, there was a lot more background detail shared here, which I felt bogged things down a bit. But I’m not a fan of historical fiction so others might not be bothered by this.

You certainly could read this one first if you’ve not read the other books, but do yourself a favor—read those, too. Like so many of Hoffman's books, they’re just gorgeous and they’ll grab your heart.

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