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Book review: At the center of this magical tale is love

Book review: At the center of this magical tale is love

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Magic Lessons

Magic Lessons

I think I have always been fascinated with witches. One of my favorite books as a young, avid reader was “The Witch of Blackbird Pond,” and I’ve continued to be drawn to books with characters associated with witchcraft ever since.

The first Alice Hoffman book I read and loved was “Practical Magic,” so I was very excited to be given the opportunity to review its prequel, “Magic Lesson.” It is everything I’d hoped it would be and more.

The story begins in England in 1664, when Hannah Owens finds a beautiful, abandoned baby girl in a field staring at a very large crow, which insisted on never leaving the child’s side.

The child’s mother must have known she was leaving Maria in kind, gentle caring hands belonging to a woman who would recognize her gifts and teach her the ways of the Unnamed Arts. She also teaches her to always love someone who loves you back.

Yes, this is the same Maria, matriarch of the Owens family, and now the reader finally learns the origin of the family curse while meeting three generations of Owens women.

This is a very emotional, mystical, engaging read. The characters in this novel are brilliantly drawn with Hoffman’s skillful writing. She also beautifully weaves much of the history of the witch scares and prosecutions in both England and Salem.

Part of the novel takes place in the areas that became Brooklyn and Manhattan, where one also learns about the Portuguese Jews who escaped to the New World.

Although there is a lot of sadness, revenge and evil, it keeps returning to the most important lessons. At the very center of “Magic Lessons” is love—of many kinds.

“Drink chamomile tea to calm the spirit. Feed a cold and starve a fever. Read as many books as you can. Always choose courage. Never watch another woman burn. Know that love is the only answer.”

It is a magical read.

Sandy Mahaffey is former Books editor with The Free Lance–Star.

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