cover image Magic Lessons

Magic Lessons

Alice Hoffman. Simon & Schuster, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-9821-0884-7

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. (Oct.)