Last week I read The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman, while we were at the beach in South Carolina. I knew it would be good since it is the prequel to Practical Magic and it has been highly recommended. What I did not realize was just how much I would love it and how much it would impact me. Because it was so significant, I have decided to devote an entire post to my thoughts on it. I will not spoil the actual story or ending, but rather talk about the themes that I related to and that impacted me.
The story is entirely separate from Practical Magic, but is about the same family and has similar themes. It is the story of Jet and Franny (the aunts from Practical Magic) and their journeys in life. The family has been cursed in love for hundreds of years. Each generation has their own complex experience. In brief summary, three siblings Jet, Franny and Vincent struggle in their relationships with each other, their parents and their significant others, while also coming to terms with their family’s history and origins. There mother does not talk of her family or the secret’s that are held deep within her past, making the journey of discovery all the more difficult.
Despite the premise of magical roots, the story turned out to be very relatable. Much conflict within their stories are things that we all face throughout life. Finding yourself, family, love, relationships, death and grief.
This story helped me come to terms with so many things in ways I had not thought about. A major theme, especially in the beginning, is connection to family and how ignoring/denying where you come from will never end well. This is shown through the lens of witches denying who they are, in large part to find love and get away from the legendary curse, and the consequences that ensue. It struck a chord with me because I do believe that those who came before us make up a large part of who we are, although we may deny this at times in our lives. Embracing this could bring about great things and cherished relationships. The first part of the book takes place throughout the teenage years of the siblings and I found their experience and feelings to be very similar to my own in that time of life. This drew me in immediately.
The second element of this book that was important to me was that of grief and death. This is a very human subject that can be so difficult to deal with in reality. There are lots of books that involve death but this one brought out the grief process in a way I never experienced. I don’t want to spoil anything so I won’t go into detail, but the subject of death and grief are very prevalent and incredibly relatable. The loss of someone we love so dearly can feel like the whole world crashing in. It might feel like we lose a piece of ourself. The loss in this book brought that reality to fruition and really challenged me to think about how the losses in my life have effected me and how I deal with grief.
Loss goes along with the importance of love because death (and the potential for loss) creates a fear when it comes to love. Opening yourself up to love can be incredibly difficult when loss has been a big part of your life. The fear of loss and pain are so much more real when you have people that are so very important to you. The curse of the family in love brings the fear of losing someone into close proximity. Fear of loss is ever present and cannot be ignored or hidden. Through out the story I thought a lot about what it means to love others despite your own potential to experience great hurt.
As you might guess, I highly recommend this book. It is written beautifully and the characters are developed in a truly remarkable way. I would love to hear any thoughts you have had if you have read this book (or otherwise). I am also always looking for book recommendations!