It is a librarians eternal task to answer the question, “What should I read next?” The librarians here at Y.P.L. are attempting to answer that question with our Staff Picks series. Each entry will include a different recommendation from a staff member.
Today’s Staff Pick is brought to you by me, Monica Thomas, Y.P.L. Technology Coordinator!
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
I’m recommending this book because…
Honesty time: I had no idea that one of my favorite movies, Practical Magic, was based on a book. When the news dropped that a prequel to Practical Magic was being released, I knew I had two books to add to my list!
I read Practical Magic first, and I enjoyed it, but it was a little forgettable. You definitely don’t need to read Practical Magic to enjoy and understand The Rules of Magic. (But if you’re like me, you probably will anyway.) The Aunts, who were one of the best parts about the movie, are barely in the first book, and not at all the eccentric, fun characters I remembered and adored.
To my delight, The Rules of Magic is all about Aunt Frances and Aunt Jet (for most of the book, just Frances and Jet) as they grow up in 1960s New York City, developing their powers. The story is beautiful, tragic, and remarkably human. Yes, they’re witches, but The Rules of Magic is about so much more than curses, herbs, and superstition. At its heart, it’s a story of family, relationships, and the heartache that shapes us into who we are.
“I’m fated to lose everyone I ever love,” April said. “I already know that.”
“Of course you are,” Jet responded in her calm, measured tone. “That’s what it means to be alive.”
― Alice Hoffman,
The story spans several decades against the backdrop of real events like the Stonewall riots and the Vietnam War, and ends where Practical Magic begins. By the time I closed the back cover, I felt like I really knew these characters, like I had been through a lot with them. It was one of those books I was sad to finish, because even though I followed these characters from adolescence to old age, I just didn’t want it to end!
I adore the Frances and Jet I got to know in this book more than their Practical Magic movie versions, because they are real, fleshed-out women instead of just the eccentric, powerful aunts of Sally and Gillian. It’s a book I will revisit many more times over the years.
(Although, the midnight margarita scene will always be headcanon. I can’t help it.)
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