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Practical Magic

Practical Magic

4.2 179
by Alice Hoffman

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“[A] delicious fantasy of witchcraft and love in a world where gardens smell of lemon verbena and happy endings are possible.”—Cosmopolitan

The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

For more than two hundred years,


“[A] delicious fantasy of witchcraft and love in a world where gardens smell of lemon verbena and happy endings are possible.”—Cosmopolitan

The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic conconctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic...

“Splendid...Practical Magic is one of [Hoffman's] best novels, showing on every page her gift for touching ordinary life as if with a wand, to reveal how extraordinary life really is.”—Newsweek 



From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Mark Childress
Ms. Hoffman's trademark narrative voice is upbeat, breathless and rather bouncy. She creates vivid characters, she keeps things moving along, and she's not above using sleight of hand and prestidigitation to achieve her considerable effects. She plays tricks with the reader's expectations by suddenly shifting tenses or passing the point of view around the room like a football. At one brief but memorable juncture, we see things through the eyes of a magician's rabbit. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Her 11th novel is Hoffman's best since Illumination Night. Again a scrim of magic lies gently over her fictional world, in which lilacs bloom riotously in July, a lovesick boy's elbows sizzle on a diner countertop and a toad expectorates a silver ring. The real and the magical worlds are almost seamlessly mixed here, the humor is sharper than in previous books, the characters' eccentricities grow credibly out of their past experiences and the poignant lessons they learn reverberate against the reader's heartstrings, stroked by Hoffman's lyrical prose. The Owens women have been witches for several generations. Orphaned Sally and Gillian Owens, raised by their spinster aunts in a spooky old house, grow up observing desperate women buying love potions in the kitchen and vow never to commit their hearts to passion. Fate, of course, intervenes. Steady, conscientious Sally marries, has two daughters and is widowed early. Impulsive, seductive Gillian goes through three divorces before she arrives at Sally's house with a dead body in her car. Meanwhile, Sally's daughters, replicas of their mother and their aunt, experience their own sexual awakenings. The inevitability of love and the torment and bliss of men and women gripped by desire is Hoffman's theme here, and she plays those variations with a new emphasis on sex scenes-there's plenty of steamy detail and a pervasive use of the f-word. The dialogue is always on target, particularly the squabbling between siblings, and, as usual, weather plays a portentous role. Readers will relish this magical tale. BOMC main selection.
School Library Journal
YA-Practical Magic is vintage Hoffman. It is the story of how three generations of New England women deal with the irresistible force of love. Sisters Sally and Gillian are as different as night and day; Antonia and Kylie are Sally's teenage daughters. All are caught in passion's snare in spite of their vigilance against it or disbelief in its power. Hovering in the background are the girls' great-aunties, Frances and Jet, who are really barely disguised witches. Using their heritage of practical magic-that is, magic that will get you out of trouble-each of the younger women deals with whatever love delivers, good and bad. YAs will be charmed by Hoffman's warm, mesmerizing narrative. The book is reminiscent in places of Gwendolyn Brooks's tiny jewel of a poem, ``Sadie and Maud,'' and even more of Sue Miller's poignant novel, For Love (HarperCollins, 1993). But even as Hoffman agrees with Brooks and Miller that ``grief is everywhere,'' she administers that sweet antidote, a happy ending. Her women are possessed by love, and transformed.-Marya Fitzgerald, R.E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Donna Seaman
agic, fantasy, and full-tilt love-at-first-sight have figured in all of Hoffman's sexy, funny, and endearing novels, but they blossom as they never have before in her latest effort, a tale about four generations of Massachusetts sisters. The unusual Owens women are beautiful, with unforgettable pond-gray eyes; a blood-deep knowledge of the supernatural power of plants, animals, and storms; and pronounced sensitivity to love and evil. Sally, dark and practical, and Gillian, blond and wild, go to live with their peculiar and reclusive aunts after the death of their parents. Taunted and feared by the town's children, they long for an ordinary life far from their quirky aunts and their mysterious garden and the desperate, lovesick women who appear at their door after dark. Gillian heads for the desert and the company of dangerous men, while Sally finds love and bliss only to have her heart shattered. She flees from the scene of her tragedy with her two young daughters, works hard to achieve normalcy, and almost succeeds, but Gillian appears with a dead man in her car and the entire world reels. In Hoffman's universe, all boundaries between inner and outer realms are erased. Fear brings whipping winds, a malevolent spirit causes lilac bushes to achieve monstrous proportions, and love turns the air sweet and golden, melts butter, and makes everyone giddy. Hoffman has created a cosmic romance leavened with just the right touch of pragmatism and humor.
From the Publisher
“A beautiful, moving book about the power of love and the desires of the heart.”—Denver Post

“Charmingly told, and a good deal of fun.”—The New York Times Book Review

“One of her most lyrical works...Hoffman is at her best.”—San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

“Written with a light hand and rhythm...Practical Magic has the pace of a fairy tale but with the impact of accomplished fiction.”—People

“Hoffman's best...readers will relish this magical tale.”—Denver Post

“A sweet, sweet story that like the best fairy tales says more than at first it seems to.”—New York Daily News

“[Hoffman] has proved once again her potency as a storyteller, combining the mundane with the fantastic in a totally engaging way.”—The Orlando Sentinel

“Hoffman's writing has plenty of power. Her best sentences are like incantations—they won't let you get away.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Witches and ghosts, spells and sleight-of-hand weave a fanciful atmospehere in Alice Hoffman's tender comedy about clairvoyance, spells, and family ties.”—The Miami Herald

“A cosmic romance leavened with just the right touch of pragmatism and humor.”—Booklist

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
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File size:
442 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"A beautiful, moving book about the power of love and the desires of the heart."-Denver Post

"Charmingly told, and a good deal of fun." -New York Times Book Review

Meet the Author

Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The Marriage of OppositesPractical Magic, The Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on EarthThe Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. She lives near Boston.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Brief Biography

Boston, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
March 16, 1952
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
B.A., Adelphi University, 1973; M.A., Stanford University, 1974

Customer Reviews

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Practical Magic 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 179 reviews.
1Katherine1 More than 1 year ago
On the surface this is enjoyable enough-- a great, fun romance story full of all the the right classic ingredients. Then add a smidgen of mystery and a ghost. Finish it off with the all-powerful themes of love, sisterhood, and family, all written with Hoffman's dreamy prose. Simply, this book is an addiction, gorgeous and well-plotted with fantastic characters and development. If you're a hopeless romantic looking for a very real story with just a touch of magic, this is it.
theReader278 More than 1 year ago
Being a big Alice Hoffman fan, I enjoyed this one. it has a story that keeps you entertained for hours.
kaydanielle More than 1 year ago
I just finished re-reading. I think it was even better the second time, though I dont know if that is even possible. This story is relatable for everyone - from a 16 year old girl like me, to an adult. There are so many twists and turns as you follow the lives of two sisters. It is magical and mysterious and it is incredibly realistic. Every time I read it I cry because of how the story touches me. Hoffman writes like no other. Must read.
Volligtoll More than 1 year ago
Wow, this book was much better than I expected it to be. I saw the movie awhile ago and really liked it and it really isn't anything like the book. Hoffman's writing style takes alittle getting used to but it works very well. This is an amazing story of love in all it's forms and you really fall for all the characters in it. I only wish the aunts had been in it more, I really liked their characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And this is one of the best. A little quirky, a little sad, a little magic...
Guest More than 1 year ago
I never watched the movie, but many people told me it was great. So instead I picked up the book. This was a cute and heart-felt book. Teaches the importance of family.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I haven't read to many good books lately and I was about to give up, but I thought one more wouldn't hurt, and now I'm hooked. 'Practical Magical' was so enchanting and had so many emotions I couldn't put it down until I was done with it. It was one of the first books I've read of Alice Hoffman and I'm hoping the other books she has writen are as magical and moving as this one here.
MichaelTravisJasper More than 1 year ago
The author of this book personally told me that the book differed quite a bit from the movie, and she wasn’t exaggerating. That is the reason I read it. The movie is one of my favorites. In the novel, the story focuses a lot more on the third generation, Sally’s daughters. They really only appear as children in the movie. Although, I love Alice’s books, in some ways, I liked the movie version better. It is so well done. However, it was great to read the book, because for me it expanded and deepened the story. I recommend it for everyone, whether or not you are a fan of the popular movie. Michael Travis Jasper, Author of the Novel “To Be Chosen”
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like the way Alice Hoffman blends reality, fantasy, and romance in the story. I have read the book so many times I've lost count. The affection and sympathy she has for her characters is also a help for the story. The way the book goes from one timeline to another is very well done. Truly, one of my favorites of all time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book numerous times. There is no other writer who can create magic with her words as well as Alice Hoffman can. This is truly an outstanding novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful book, I loaned it to a friend of mine- who loaned to someone else and so on.. . I would love to read it again. Its one of those books that get better each time you read it. I guess I need to buy a new copy. I really recommend it. Its one of my all time favorites.
lexa_stone More than 1 year ago
Alice Hoffman is a master of magic realism as a genre. Her characters provide both intrigue and delight.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think hat the author did a great job portraying believable magic intertwined with a wonderful storyabout family and relationships. I thouroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it highly!
VirtualVixen More than 1 year ago
Not my usual read, I got through this and it was ok. Kind of lost myself in it at times and had to trudge through to more exciting parts. Overall not bad, but def not something i would read more than once.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much! It had so much in it. The story line was really interesting and I adored the characters. It's not really like the movie but that was ok. Usually I would get mad that the movie is different than the book but I love both equally! I would recomend it highly! Read it and enjoy!
Tamara87 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. Alice Hoffman is great at conveying magical realism. This book sparked my interest in reading more of that particular genre. This book is invigorating and exciting. It also tells a lot about human nature and relationships. This is not your typical romance or sisterly bond novel. It is filled with realism with a hint of magic and mystery hence the genre, magical realism.
DaniHall More than 1 year ago
i was livened up by this book. i found it very touching, very well written & beautifully told. anyone who has a sister would love to read this book! the characters were wonderfully portrayed
Guest More than 1 year ago
Honestly, this is one of my favorite books. I recommend it to as many girlfriends of mine that I can because I loved it so much. The description is excellent, and the very plot is outstanding. So much better than the movie. Go read it, now!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very enjoyable read. Perhaps it is lacking in something that's rather hard to pinpoint... it seems as if these characters have appeared in every one of Hoffman's books, like she has some kind of archetypical system. Nonetheless, "Practical Magic" is a great novel that displays Hoffman's talent for depth within simplicity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i loved the book. i suggest that everybody read it. i think that the movie and the book were great!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This Book was one of the best books I have ever sat down to read, it stays on my coffee table all the time. In a way I think in most ways I'm like sally most, because like her I long for love.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just a great read. Fun. You laugh, you cry. You leave your worries behind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't say enough about this book! It was WONDERFUL!!!!!!! I could not put it down! It is one that I could read over & over again!!!!!!!!!!!! BUY IT!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was great. My sister and I are very close and it reminded me so much of us. Its very well written and the coolest book ever!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I't has always been hard for me to actually get into a book. But this book showed me what a real book is supposed to be like. I couldn't get my head out of it. The outline was awsome and the description of everything was wonderful. I would definetly recomend this book to my friends and family, I can't wait to read it again.