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Practical Magic
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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
That is an admonishment at the end of this wonderful book by Alice Hoffman. I'll preface my mini-review here with the following statement: Had anyone told me a year ago that I would read --in one day-- a romance about lives and loves of successive generations of women blessed or cursed with witchy powers, I would have laughed at them. A few years back, I tried to watch the movie "Practical Magic" and found myself thoroughly bored by what I considered a talky "chick flick." Since then, I've become a fan of Sandra Bullock and recently saw the film again, and found myself liking it for the most part. I particularly loved the sad, wistful character played by Bullock, that of Sally Owens.
So I checked the book out from the library, not knowing what to expect, and like a man in the story who becomes enchanted by a letter Sally writes that comes into his possession, "Practical Magic" hooked me. Hoffman writes with such easy, beautiful prose and the characters really spring to life and find a place in your heart and imagination.
I won't regurgitate the plot here. But I will say that Hoffman writes so well about perhaps the most exquisite and maybe the rarest kind of love, the type that hits both a man and a woman like a thunderbolt, overpowering and sweeping them both away. Hoffman's descriptions of this happening to Sally and her sister and the two men that they are destined to be with packs a tremendous and very satisfying emotional punch for any romantic, which I guess I am. Oh, how I found myself envying the lucky men who won the hearts of Sally and Gillian! To feel love as strong as that and be loved as fiercely in return must be the best thing in the world.
So read the book and like Sally Owens would say, fall in love whenever you can.
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88 of 95 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 31, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The movie version of this story is one of the most fun, exhilerating movies - a favorite in this household. This book bears very little relation to the movie. The only similarities are that the main characters exist as they do in the movie, but they don't live with the aunts and magic is not quite the focus as it was in the movie.
Now, that said ...
This is one of the best books I've had the opportunity to read. Written in the beautiful prose Alice Hoffman is so well known for, it follows the life of Gillian and Sally as they go on their diverse paths. Sally is the stable widow with two girls in tow. She leaves the aunts in New England, leaving her sad life behind, and moves to a Long Island suburb with her two girls where tries to live a normal life. Meanwhile, Gillian is a bad girl who is in and out of relationships and in and out of trouble. She finds the awful, abusive Jimmy and eventually kills him accidentally while enroute to visit her sister. Unsure of what to do, she brings him to her sister's house dead in the passenger seat of the car - she thinks stable Sally would know what to do to keep her out of jail. Sally meets the situation with borderline hysteria at first, then the two decide to bury him in Sally's backyard. Gillian moves in with Sally and her girls and tries to forget the body in the back yard. Sally's boring, stable life changes dramatically while Gillian's naughty life changes to a more stable one. Meanwhile they are haunted by the evil spirit of Jimmy, threatening to destroy the tenuous stability they try to build.
This book is not written in standard chapters - instead it is written in four large sections. Fortunately there are enough scene breaks in each section that you can put it down and read it in separate sittings. The thing is, once you're drawn into the story, you won't want to put it down. You'll want to read this one in a day, in one sitting if you can read fast enough. It is so beautifully written with an edge of suspense and just a tiny touch of magic. It will become a treasure on your bookshelf and one you'll only loan to your most reliable friends. Excellent!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
My first taste of Alice Hoffman was Here on Earth. While the prose was beautiful, I was disappointed in the characters and plot. However, deep in my gut, I had a feeling there was more to Alice Hoffman than what she was displaying in that book. I couldn't write her off with all of the books she had written, and I felt there was more to her than I was shown. So, I did a little research and took some of her books out of the library. The second book I read was, Practical Magic, and I'm glad to see my instincts were right.
This bewitching, captivating novel is full of spellbounding characters, which is the main thing that was missing from Here on Earth.
Sally and Gillian are sisters who, because of the passing of their parents, end up getting raised by their two aunts, who are witches. Because of this, the sisters are ostrasized a bit from their peers, and long to be free from the house and the Aunts on Magnolia Street.
Raven-haired Sally is the older of the two sisters. She's practical, hard-working, good, responsible, and afraid to love. Golden-haired Gillian is wild, lazy, coniving, airy, and also afraid to love.
Gillian is the first to escape, by running off with a boy. She moves from town to town, from guy to guy, with three failing marriages behind her, before she shows up on her sister's doorstep with the dead body of her recent boyfriend, Jimmy, in the car.
Sally, who continued to stay with the Aunts, fell in love and got married to a wonderful man named Michael, finding a happy life of her own. She had a man she loved, and two daughters, Antonia and Kylie. Her world came crumbling down on her when Michael got killed by a drunk driver. She went into a deep depression, and when she finally snapped out of it, she packed up her two daughters and moved out into the Aunts' house and into one of her own.
There, she tried to provide a normal life for her daughters, wanting them to go to school without being called a witch. She was trying her best to build her life again when her sister appeared at her doorstep.
The book then focuses on Sally's two daughters, the red-headed, spunky, spoiled Antonia, and the more sensative, introverted Kylie, who seemed to develop powers to "see" things on her own.
To add depth to the story, Gillian and Sally are both challenged to love again when Ben comes into Gillian's life, and, towards the end of the story, Gary comes into Sally's.
The Aunts, who were always background characters, finally have dialogue towards the end of the story when their "help" is needed. Not only do the Aunts have something to say, but they have names: Aunt Frances and Aunt Jet. We also have the pleasure of getting to know them a little bit, too.
This is a book that's absolutely rich in characterization. There's three generations of Owens women in this book, and each one of them has a depth and personality all her own. The men that come into these womens' lives only add more depth and richness to the book.
What a wonderfully enchanting, imaginative story. I have a feeling this book will end up being one of my favorite books by Ms. Hoffman.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Let me say first off that I went to see the movie first, and loved it. I read the book expecting the movie, and there's the rub. Quite simply, they are two different works of art, with varying flaws and merits to each. Alice Hoffman's writing is amazingly stylized, swinging between being a fairy tale to an urban drama and back again, with a few shakes of witches and hedge magic thrown in just for fun. Some reviewers complain about the lack of plot or characterization, but this is just not true. Sally and Gillian are both painstakingly realized throughout, their different viewpoints meeting and overlapping as their lives are twisted and casually tossed about. What makes the book is seeing these characters grow and change, evolving into powerful, complete women. The men are somewhat undeveloped, but their role was less as co-stars in this drama then as events, or forces of nature. Which comes down to what I got out of the book, and the movie, which was less about people then it was about love, or desire, take your pick, and the incredible knots we tie ourselves into over it, or the pits we dig when we lose it. Slow and dreamy, this is not a book about solid lines and "This Is What Happened In This Chapter." Read it as you would the Brothers Grimm, and the whole thing will make much more sense. Truly.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Most people complain that this book didn't rely as heavily on the steretypical magic as the movie did but so what? There is more than one type of magic, and one of the strongest, most natural ones is love and this book proved that. This book had a more romantic and passionate element than the movie did which I enjoyed very much, especially when Gillian finds the love of her life at long last which I don't understand why they wouldn't put in the film because that's one of the best parts of the novel. Yet regardless of love being the strongest magic in this book there is magic as well in the witch sense, including the aunts with their love spells for those poor lovedrunk women. But people need to understand the reason why it is called Practical in the first place is because the girls Sally and Gillian are trying to be practical all their lives. That's the main point of the story. Gillian runs off and Sally lives her life as best as she can normally and makes sure her daughters, as best she can, live that way too.

I did really love this story. It was endlessly fascinating and yes very romantic. I usually am not too deep into romance stories but this novel is a guilty reading pleasure for me I read every now and then. The way Alice writes is very beautiful, and the characters are very realistic- not just some dingy witches who stand over a black pot but actual women who want and need just what every other woman wants. This book proved that although the Owens may have a little more witch in them than other women, they still were women with desires, and share bonds with people they would sacrifice themselves to save.

One thing I particularly enjoyed was how Sally's two daughters were centered on a lot more than they were in the film. I liked reading on them and how they grew up, and how different they were- just like Gillian and Sally- they were as different as the sun and the moon, and how much tension grows because of it. I also enjoyed of course meeting Gillian's and Sally's eventual loves at the end and the pages literally steam with passion at these parts.

So I loved the whole novel basically. What can I say it is one of the best stories I have read. It has more than one type of magic that keeps this story constantly fresh and loveable. The book is better than the movie, mainly because of all they cut out of the novel that made it the great story it was. But the movie nonetheless is still good to watch- yet I highly recommend the book as well if you love the movie for it gives you a more deeper look on espeically Sally's daughters that's worth reading- and as well as just has a lot more to the story that makes the story even better.

Overall it is about two sisters that even though they part their ways to avoid their ancestor's history come back together under rather unpleasant circumstances and despite their differences share an amazingly deep love and bond to help each other with their difficult lives. Gillian, with a man who just won't leave, and Sally, with her fear of love.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman is an enticing and exciting book to read. It was one of those books where once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. I read the book in one night, as I was in anticipation of what would happen next. I even read it a second time, since it was so interesting and to see if I could catch anything I missed the first time around. The thing I enjoyed most about this book is its look at love. I am a total romantic at heart and I loved how the book dealt with love that was destined to be and just took over people so strongly, concerning Sally and Gillian and the two men they are destined to spend their lives with. This emotional and spiritual aspect just drew me in and kept my attention throughout the entire book. I have seen the movie version, years ago when it first came out, and I really liked the movie as well. Now that I have the book, I prefer the book to the movie, because the books gives the reader a more in-depth look into their lives and just gives overall more details. Also, the book is very different than the movie in the way they play out, so drawing a conclusion about the two is somewhat difficult. I have also read Turtle Moon by Hoffman and I enjoyed that book as well. She has a very distinct writing style, so if you enjoyed one of her other books the odds are that you will enjoy giving this book a chance and reading it. I would recommend this book to anyone to read; this book has relevance and would be enjoyable to both genders, any race, and people from all walks of life as everyone can relate to some part of the book and take that to heart. This is now one of my favorite books I have ever read and I give it my full approval and highly urge everyone to read it.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you liked the movie and then decided to check out the book like me, you were probably, dissapointed. This isn't that good of a book. And it is depressing in some parts, especially the parts about Antonia and Kylie. I did like the parts with the Aunts and I wish they had been in there more. The movie was beautiful and magical, and the book was pretty much ho hum. Don't buy it if you are searching for the prettiness of the movie.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is, without a doubt, one of my most favorite books in my collection, and some day I hope to have it in hardcover.
If you've seen the movie, forget it, go grab yourself a copy of this book, and sit down and read one of the most stirring and wonderful tales you are going to read in a contemporary setting.
Sally and Gillian Owens have a gift, a touch of magic that they wield in their lives with different philosophies. For Gillian, the world is a place to meet, enjoy, and move on. For Sally, the notion of a "regular" life is the prize, to be married, to have children, and to be a regular woman. Neither of them get what they're expecting, and the result is, well, magic.
The evocative prose of this book left me breathless: Hoffman has a way to work with present and past tense narrative that will work wonders on most readers. Her past tense writing gives you a sense of a fairy tale unfolding, and her present tense writing sucks you in with its sharp immediacy. Most of all, her generational writing, dealing with the Aunts, to the Sisters, to the daughters of Sally, is a wonderful perspective and a truly moving piece of narrative.
The blend of folklore with life, and the sharp clarity of Hoffman's eye toward the emotional made this one of my favorites, and I have given copies of this book to many people in my time. I recently mailed a copy to the Netherlands, for a friend there who couldn't find the book.
This book will move you, and make you believe.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
If I ever expect it to be as hocus-pocus as the one in movie, I was TOTALLY wrong! Well, sure, the aunts are able to make love potion but Sally and Gillian... They know something about magic but they don't do it like jumping from the roof ala Wicked Witch of The West.

At the core, it is from, for and about women. It's about 3 generations of Owens women who are all very beautiful and have big grey eyes just like their first known ancestor, Maria Owens. I said known because there's no story about how and where Maria came from. She just came with her baby daughter, built a house and became a legend, superstitious legend that is.

This is my first book by Hoffman and I enjoyed it very much. It's so brilliant of how she wrapped deep emotional issues with fairytale-like plot. And the weird coincidences are the practical magic that sometimes does happen in real life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Being the odd one out in a community is not a new problem but when you've got a family history like the Owens' it's the most likely outcome. For Sally and Gillian the family secret- the power of the super-natural/ witchcraft has lead to a lonely life, but they overcome all problems. The story of Practical Magic follows the lives of two sisters on their paths of life but always in the background their aunts keep a watchful eye. The story follows their love for eachother and for the men in their lives but in the back of the story is the idea of a family cursed throughout the generations. I would give this book top marks; it is the type of book that you could read over and over again and never tire of it. "Keep rosemary by your garden gate; Plant lavender for luck; And fall in love whenever you can."
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