Monday, December 18, 2017

The Rules of Magic

Title:  The Rules of Magic
Author:  Alice Hoffman
Publication Information:  Simon & Schuster. 2017. 384 pages.
ISBN:  1501137476 / 978-1501137471

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from home, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society."

Favorite Quote:  "... magic was not so very far from science. Both endeavors searched for meaning where there was non, light in the darkness, answers to questions too difficult for mortals to comprehend."

A disclaimer to start with. I have not read Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. I pick this book based on the other books I have read by the author. Each of them has been completely different, and each has been a delightful read in its own way. Now, having read this one, I think I need to add Practical Magic to my never ending "to read" list. This book stands completely on its own. So, I don't need to read Practical Magic, but I feel engaged enough with the characters to want to know where their lives lead.

The Rules of Magic is a story of witches and wizards and a world that both needs them and fears and persecutes them. The magic portrayed in the book is of the most benign sort, focused on love and healing as opposed sorcery seeking to do harm.

More than the witchcraft, the book is the story of the Owens family - siblings Franny, Jet, and Vincent. Their parents - in particular, their mother Susanna - tries to have them lead a life far away from witchcraft and the rest of the Owens family. The three siblings, however, know that they are "different" and begin to explore who they are and the history from which they come.

As you might suspect in a book about witches and wizards, a curse is at the heart of this story. It is this curse from which Susanna wants to save her children. As you might suspect, it is not possible to outrun or escape who you are. You must face it, and you must own it. That is the lesson of this book.

In this way, this story is a coming-of-age story about the three Owens siblings. Franny, Jet, and Vincent do a lot of growing up in this book. All three face their gifts and this curse in their own unique way. Sometimes successfully, and sometimes not. They learn about themselves, about each other, and about their family history. What carries throughout is their family bond and their love for each other.

Within this family story, the stories of the three siblings also develop independently and dintinctly.  You see each as an individual and as part of the cohesive trio. Franny takes on a parental role, and her story becomes one of denying her own emotions because it is the "right" thing to do. Jet's story is one of grief, of carrying on beyond tragedy, and of understanding. Vincent's story is one of growing up and choosing your own path. Alice Hoffman, as the storyteller, weaves her magic creating characters I care about and want to know more about collectively and individually.

That gift of storytelling, to me, is resposible for the success of this book. The element of witchcraft provides the background in which these characters and these relationships come to life and become real. Though set in a world of wizardry, the struggles and emotions of the three siblings are ones shared by mere mortals - love, sacrifice, guilt, insecurity, and courage. That is what draws me into this book and keeps me engaged throughout.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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