Source: checked out from my local library
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.
The movie adaptation of Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic was released in 1998 and it's become one of those movies that I will watch any time I come across it playing on t.v. I have yet to pick up that book; why I don't know. But when Hoffman released the prequel, The Rules of Magic, I was quick to grab that up (my review here) and I was charmed. So, of course, it stood to reason that it was a given that I would read this book, which is a prequel to a prequel. If you've never read any of the books, you might as well start with this one and work your way from 1664 to the 1990's, rather than as they books were written.
When I wrote my review of The Rules of Magic, I noted that even though the book was about witches and curses it felt much more like a book about families than about magic. This book feels more centered around magic, largely because it is set just after the witch hunts in Europe and during the witch hunts in the Americas. Still, at its heart, this is also a book family and even more about love. And while there is straight up magic in the story, much of what is considered by others in the book would be what we now consider homeopathic medicine - using what Mother Nature has given us to heal ourselves.
As with The Rules of Magic, this book can drag on too long in places and frequently felt repetitive (yes, yes, I get it Ms. Hoffman, familiars have to pick their people). And having read these book in reverse, I was struck by how the ending of this book didn't jive with an impression I got about the way the Owens women were perceived in the community in the later books.
Still, Hoffman pulled me into the story from the beginning, with Maria's life being upturned, to Curacao, where Maria first meets James Hathorn who will turn out not to be the man he appeared to be, to Salem then New York and back to Salem. We learn to listen to our inner voices (even if it takes Maria a good long while to do that), that revenge never bring happiness, that there are some bonds that can never be broken, and that you should always love someone who will love you back.