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In this “ bewitching” (The New York Times Book Review) novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.
Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Nameless Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.
When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.
Magic Lessons is a “heartbreaking and heart-healing” (BookPage) celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.
Hoffman's striking latest entry in her Practical Magic series (after The Rules of Magic) turns to 1664 rural England for the origin story of Maria Owens, matriarch of the series' clan of witches. Maria is discovered as an infant by Hannah Owens, a practitioner of the "Nameless Art" who raises Maria and teaches her natural remedies and witchcraft. As a girl, Maria has an innate sense of magic and emulates Hannah's desire to help the scores of women who secretly come to her for help mostly for problems with their love lives. After Maria is reclaimed at age 10 by her birth mother, Rebecca, another Nameless Art practitioner, Maria comes to understand like other heroines in Hoffman's "Magic" books that love can be unexpectedly overpowering. Maria becomes ensnared in a complicated relationship and has a daughter out of wedlock. As Maria's story takes her from England to Massachusetts and New York, Hoffman offers an eye-opening account of how single women were treated in the 17th century, particularly when their knowledge or intelligence was deemed threatening. While the musings on "enchantments and remedies" grow repetitive, Maria's page-turning adventure is thoroughly enjoyable. Hoffman's redemptive story of a fiercely independent woman adds an engrossing, worthwhile chapter to the series.