Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman: review and recipe

Sally and Gillian Owens are orphaned at a very young age. Knowing that someone had to be responsible, 4 year old Sally takes fate into her own hands and calls her Aunts and asks to be taken in. Somewhat reluctantly they agree, and so begins the story of Sally and Gillian. In their new town, an Owens is known as a witch. Anyone bearing the name of Owens is avoided, bullied, ostracized, and ignored. Both Sally and Gillian are devastated at this treatment, but react very differently. Sally becomes responsible, driven, and shy. Gillian’s lazy, conniving, and flighty – running away by the time she’s 18 (and leaving Sally behind). Sally yearns for the normalcy of suburbia, and eventually achieves her dream. She falls in love, gets married, and has two beautiful daughters. Unfortunately, when her youngest daughter is 6 months old, tragedy strikes and Sally is widowed. Then it is Sally’s turn to flee town, looking to go where no one knows what an Owens is.

Fast forward 13 years and Sally and Gillian are thrown together again – but neither has changed. Sally is still the responsible one bailing out the flighty Gillian. What follows is a wonderful story of family and forgiveness – and falling in love whenever you can. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman is a richly evocative, well written novel about the bonds between women (a bit of an Alice Hoffman trademark, I should think). Rating 5/5. Bottom line: if you ever stumble across this book, read it!

A few fun facts: this was made into a decent movie starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, the house in the movie is my favorite “movie house” of all time (followed closely by the What Lies Beneath house), in the book, Sally makes the most delicious sounding vegetable lasagna; it reminded me of this recipe.

Photos: Putnam Adult via amazon, Annabelle Breakey and Karen Shinto via Sunset Magazine.

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