For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.
Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.
From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.
The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.
As children, Franny, Jet, and Vincent Owens lived under very strict guidelines, most of which revolved around the denial of the existence of magic. Their mother adamantly refused to acknowledge their questions about their “otherness” and warned her children to stay far, far away from anything even remotely related to magic or love. Of course, the rules and guidelines set forth by their mother only fueled the Owens’s children’s desire to know more.
For Franny, love isn’t going to be a problem as she has decided to dedicate her life to science and the pursuit of facts. She is objective and logical, intelligent and reasonable, and clueless. Though she believes her best-friend understands her passion, her dedication to pure objectivity, his passion is in fact divided between Franny and science. For decades, Franny dances around and dances with her best friend, only separating herself from him when the very dire needs of her family arise or being near him causes more pain than one heart should ever have to handle.
For Jet Owens, ignoring love isn’t ever going to be a possibility and when she meets her one true love while visiting her aunt, her life and his are forever changed. In the bloom of youth and love, Jet is prepared to ignore her mother’s dire warnings, defy the odds, and be the first Owens in generations to live with the love of her life. Fate is fickle and sometimes simply cruel, and a tragic moment Jet is reminded of who she is and what she is destined never to have. Of the siblings, Jet is by far the most sensitive and it takes, literally decades for her to once again find herself, forgive, and forge a path that includes a measure of happiness. Where she finds that happiness is perhaps the most surprising for all the Owens children.
Vincent Owens never, not even as a child, had difficulty accepting who and what he is. In fact, Vincent often delights in flaunting his “otherness” and dabbles in areas of magic best left alone. For his troubles, Vincent often finds himself in trouble or on the cusp of trouble. Nearly everything changes for Vincent when he meets his own one true love. For many, finding love is a blessing, but for Vincent, it is a mixed bag and in the end, Vincent will be forced to sacrifice more than he ever could have predicted or expected. In so many ways, Vincent is both the luckiest and the most tragic of the Owens children and his ultimate predicament puts everyone he knows and loves in jeopardy.
The Bottom Line: Alice Hoffman is, without doubt or reservation, one of the contemporary world’s most accomplished authors. I can’t put her books down once I start reading, and, quite frankly really have no desire to do so. In my stupidity and out of some misguided sense of responsibility, I tried putting down The Rules of Magic around two a.m., and when I couldn’t sleep for want of knowing how this story would end, I picked it back up and read until I had my answers. The Rules of Magic is a complicated, complex, artful narrative of a family long believed to be cursed. The three Owens siblings not only struggle with this knowledge, but also with a decided lack of knowledge about their pasts and why their futures are cursed. They struggle as children and eventually as adults with the reality of their world, what they are individually and together, and what that means for their own lives and those who come into their lives. There is very little in the way of happiness in this read, but there are brief moments of pure joy that will have you celebrating. As always, Hoffman’s skill and ability to weave a tale is evident on page one and carries through to the very last page. I absolutely adored this book, its masterful craftsmanship, and really can’t recommend it anymore heartily than I already do. With certainty, The Rules of Magic is a 2017 favorite read!