Book 49, a book about magic, The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
I fell in love with Alice Hoffman’s books in high school, and I devoured as many of them as I could find. This period of my life was “pre-English major” and I enjoyed literature much differently. Back then, all I cared about was a good story that pulled me in. I had no idea what good writing was. I loved Alice Hoffman’s ability to weave magic into real-life in a way that was almost believable, even though it defied the laws of the natural world. She did it so expertly that I found it unnecessary to suspend my disbelief. Later, I learned that this is an entire genre called Magical Realism, and it is, to this day, one of my favorite genres. Alice Hoffman also excels at creating characters with serious depth. You feel very invested in their outcomes.
For this reason, specifically, The Rules of Magic was an excellent choice as it is a prequel to her novel Practical Magic. Quite possibly the best part of this novel is the fact that you get insight into the crazy aunts from her other book. She sheds more light on the intriguing Owens clan. That deep connection to the Owens family and their plight is what drives the reader forward. I would not say this Hoffman’s best work; it’s probably one of my least favorite books by her if we’re talking strictly style and storyline. However, the connection to Gilly, Sally and their Aunts Jett and Franny kept me intrigued. Her writing is, at times, a bit repetitive, a bit overdone, and the plot is a little derivative—you see what’s coming a mile away—but the journey getting there is quite fun.
Most likely, I cannot read Alice Hoffman’s work and enjoy it the way I did before I studied literature. I have mentioned before that it is very hard for me to read a book without a pen in my hand; the literary scholar in me wants to annotate, underline, and basically over-analyze/tear apart everything I read. I can’t simply read for enjoyment anymore, and that’s what Alice Hoffman’s writing is: something to just sit and read and enjoy. A story to get wrapped up in and escape reality for a little while. Is she the best writer ever? No. But she builds some very loveable and interesting worlds and characters, and it’s well worth the trip to her imaginary worlds from time to time.