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The Rules of Magic: Practical Magic #1    by Alice Hoffman Amazon.com order for
Rules of Magic
by Alice Hoffman
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2017 (2017)

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alice Hoffman's The Rules of Magic is a prequel to her bestseller, Practical Magic. This lyrical account draws us into the lives of the Owens family, whose relationships have been plagued by a terrible curse since 1620, when young Maria Owens was charged with witchery by the man she loved. She believed the curse would protect her descendants from a similar betrayal and abandonment.

We meet Frances, Bridget and Vincent Owens, growing up in the last years of the 1950s. Their mother Susanna tries to protect them by denying them knowledge of their heritage. But they remain unusual. Franny communes with birds. Jet seems to know what others are thinking. Vincent is a gifted musician, with an unearthly charm. They are outsiders at school, but the others soon learn it is unwise to cross them.

In 1960, the three are summoned by their witchy aunt Isabelle to summer with her in Massachusetts. They reach Magnolia Street at summer solstice, and are glared at by neighbors. Aunt Isabelle advises, 'Do as you please ... As long as you harm no one.' Women come to her porch each evening in search of cures. Franny tracks down Maria Owens' journal and worries about the curse. She and Jet vow never to fall in love.

Yet, over the years, each of them meets the love of their life, Franny first. Haylin comes from a wealthy family, and knows her better than anyone. She constantly pushes him away for his own safety, but sends her crow familiar to watch over him. Jet meets Levi Willard in Massachusetts. He's a descendant of Maria Owens' betrayer, a witch-finder. They meet often in New York. Then tragedy strikes, leaving Jet broken. Finally, Vincent must lose his life to have a life.

We watch their fates unfold, with happiness and sadness. What do they (and readers) learn from current and past events? Simply, 'Don't live a little ... Live a lot' and 'Know that the only remedy for love is to love more.'

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