Tag: Alice Hoffman

The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman

“Isn’t that what love makes you do? Go on trying, even when you’re through. Go on even when you’re made of ash, when there’s nothing inside you but the past.”

34037113The Rules of Magic is the story of the Owenses – Franny, who can talk to birds, Jet, who can read minds, and Vincent, the first boy in the family, who was a charmer since the day he was born. For the siblings, their life is bound by a set of rules since childhood – no walking in moonlight, no black clothes, no red shoes. As teenagers, they discover the truth of what they had long suspected, a secret their mother Susanna had kept from them – they are witches. This is why the neighbors avoid them, for there are so many rumours surrounding them. The family is cursed, for the one rule they must not break at any cost is this: never fall in love. The Owenses brought doom upon whoever they fell in love with, because in the 1600s, Maria Owens fell for the wrong man, a man who led witchhunts. More and more family secrets are unearthed when the siblings spend a summer with the mysterious and fascinating Aunt Isabelle.

The Rules of Magic is a prequel to Practical Magic, a book I’ve previously mentioned as one that’s really hard to find. However, you can read this book by itself even if you haven’t read Practical Magic. It is a rich piece of literature, filled with magical realism and romance. Alice Hoffman’s narrative technique is so brilliant that raw emotions scrape at your throat when you read this book. The story has shades of Chocolat and The Mistress of Spices, but I suppose all stories of witchcraft have certain similar themes. Each character stands on his or her own, the practical Franny, the shy Jet, and the rebellious Vincent. The plot may be described as tragic, but its beauty is beyond description.

A highly recommended read for fans of magical realism.

Rating: 4*/5

Goodreads | Amazon

I received an ARC from Simon & Schuster/Netgalley. This review is honest and unbiased.

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Faithful, by Alice Hoffman

Never is a long time.

29432767Faithful is the story of once-popular, now-self-destructive Shelby Richmond. One fateful night, when she was seventeen, she and her best friend Helene go out for a drive. Their car crashes; Shelby survives with minor injuries, but Helene goes into a vegetative state. Traumatized and guilty, Shelby has a nervous breakdown and stops speaking altogether. She’s admitted to a psych ward, where she is raped by an orderly. This is when she gets the first of many postcards. It says, Say Something. And she does. She tells her mother about what’s happening and her mother gets her released from the hospital immediately.
Helene, on the other hand, is being revered as some sort of saint. Those who visit her claim they get cured of all illnesses and misfortunes if they touch her hand. Shelby does not believe in these miracles, but she is still suffering from guilt. Helene and Shelby both once had dreams and bright futures ahead of them. Helene’s lost hers, and Shelby gives up hers, choosing instead to waste her life away in her parents’ basement. She shaves her head, smokes pot, and watches TV shows she claims to hate. Her drug dealer is her old classmate, Ben Mink, with whom she walks to Helene’s house one night. Ben reveals to her that he’s going to the city to become a pharmacist and asks her to go with him. Two years have passed since the accident and Shelby decides to finally leave her hometown. She moves to the city with Ben, gets a job in a pet store, unexpectedly makes friends, and, most importantly, begins to save dogs in need of saving.

Admittedly, this book got off to a very slow and depressing start. It wasn’t just grim, because of the accident – it was very bleak. I disliked this bit of the story, but did not, at any point, feel like putting the book down. I might have, had it continued in that vein, but after Shelby decides to do something with her life, the story was, if not instantly, uplifted. I loved the characters in this book – especially Maravelle, Shelby’s friend from the pet store. I’m not a dog person, but the way Shelby rescues ill-treated dogs was heartwarming, and I found myself falling in love with all her dogs.

When Shelby starts receiving the postcards (Say Something, See Something, Save Something, etc.), I was reminded of Markus Zusak’s I Am the Messenger. But the main difference between the two is, Ed Kennedy receives aces in the mail to save other people; Shelby receives them to save herself. Her guilt and self pity nearly killed her, and even towards the end of the book, her self pity is highly palpable. On the night of the accident, Shelby believes she saw an angel and she believes it is the angel who is sending her the postcards. At other times, she is convinced it is Helene – though Helene is now incapable of doing any such thing.

Speaking of Helene, I felt the whole “miracle” angle was unnecessary. It contributed nothing to the story, and felt like it was forced into it to add a bit of magical realism to it. It was unconvincing, and a little annoying.

Aside from that one grouse, I thought that Faithful was a beautiful story of redemption and growth and forgiving oneself. I have wanted to read Alice Hoffman for a long time, but unfortunately, because of where I live perhaps, her books would either never be in stock or be ridiculously expensive because of import charges attached to them (the number of years I’ve been trying to get a copy of Practical Magic, I tell you!). Since I have never read her, I cannot compare Faithful to any other work of hers. But as someone who’s finally ventured into her world of literature, I felt warmly welcomed and left knowing for sure that I would return someday.

Goodreads

Note: I received an ARC from Netgalley. My review is honest and unbiased.