The Book of Magic: A Novel (4) (The Practical Magic Series)
by Alice Hoffman

Published: 2021-10-12T00:0
Hardcover : 400 pages
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The Owens family has been cursed in matters of love for over three-hundred years but all of that is about to change. The novel begins in a library, the best place for a story to be conjured, when beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the deathwatch beetle and knows she has only seven days to live. ...
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The Owens family has been cursed in matters of love for over three-hundred years but all of that is about to change. The novel begins in a library, the best place for a story to be conjured, when beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the deathwatch beetle and knows she has only seven days to live. Jet is not the only one in danger—the curse is already at work.

A frantic attempt to save a young man’s life spurs three generations of the Owens women, and one long-lost brother, to use their unusual gifts to break the curse as they travel from Paris to London to the English countryside where their ancestor Maria Owens first practiced the Unnamed Art. The younger generation discovers secrets that have been hidden from them in matters of both magic and love by Sally, their fiercely protective mother. As Kylie Owens uncovers the truth about who she is and what her own dark powers are, her aunt Franny comes to understand that she is ready to sacrifice everything for her family, and Sally Owens realizes that she is willing to give up everything for love.

The Book of Magic is a breathtaking conclusion that celebrates mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers, and anyone who has ever been in love.

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Some stories begin at the beginning and others begin at the end, but all the best stories begin in a library. It was there that Jet Owens saw her fate in a mirror behind the reference desk. Even in her eighties, Jet was still beautiful. Each day she washed with the black soap the family prepared in March during the dark phase of the moon, with every bar then wrapped in crinkly cellophane. Jet had no aches or pains and had never been ill a day in her life, but fate is fate and it can often be what you least expect it to be. On this day, when the daffodils had begun to bloom, Jet saw that she had seven days to live.

The deathwatch beetle had begun to call from within the walls of the Owens Library, a sound that often went unnoticed until it was so loud it was all a person could hear. When your time came, the black beetle would withdraw from hiding and follow you everywhere, no matter where you went. Its presence meant that the past was over and the future no longer existed. This was the moment that revealed how you had walked through the world, with kindness or with fear, with your heart open or closed. It had taken this long for Jet to appreciate that every instant was a marvel. Now everything she saw was illuminated. The sun streaming through the library windows in fierce bands of orange light. A moth tapping at the glass. The sweep of the branches of one of the last elm trees in the commonwealth, which shadowed the library’s lawn. Some people unravel or run for shelter when their time has come, they curse their fate or hide under their beds, but Jet knew exactly what she wished to do in the last days she’d been granted. She didn’t have to think twice.

Long ago, the library had been a jail where Maria Owens, the first woman in their family to set foot in Massachusetts in 1680, had been confined until the judges announced she would be hanged. Those were the days when witchery was forbidden and women were harshly punished, judged to be dangerous creatures if they talked too much, or read books, or did their best to protect themselves from harm. People said Maria could turn herself into a crow, that she had the ability to enchant men without ever speaking to them directly and to compel other women to do as they pleased, so that they were willing to forsake their proper place in society and in their own families. The court set out to destroy Maria and nearly did, but she could not be drowned, and she did not back down. She blamed love for her undoing, for she’d chosen the wrong man, with dire consequences. Just before the rope that was meant to end her life snapped, and she was miraculously saved, Maria called out a curse upon love.

Beware of love, she had written on the first page of her journal, now exhibited in the library, a display mothers in town often brought their teenaged daughters to view before they started dating. Beware of love that was dishonest and disloyal, love that would lie to you and trick you, love that could break you and condemn you to sorrow, love that could never be trusted. If Maria Owens had been less rash, she might have realized that when the book of magic you curse another, you curse yourself as well. Curses are like knots, the more you struggle to be free, the tighter they become, whether they’re made of rope or spite or desperation. Maria invoked an enchantment to protect the generations to follow, with her daughters’ and great-granddaughters’ best interests at heart. For their own safety, they must avoid love. Those who failed to abide by this rule would find that engagements would be tragic, and marriages would end with funerals. Over the years, many of those in the Owens family had found ways to outwit the curse, always an intricate and risky endeavor. All the same, a person could trick fate if she dared, she could change her name, never admit her love, skip a legal union, vanish from view, or, for those who were careless and wild, simply plunge in and hope for the best, knowing that sooner or later everyone had to face her own destiny.

Maria’s journal pages had been up on the wall of the library for more years than anyone could remember. Certainly, they had been there when Jet and her sister, Franny, were girls, and came here on muggy heat-laden summer days, waiting for their lives to begin, learning the truth about themselves from the town records and from their beloved aunt Isabelle. The family had a history of witchery, inherited in every generation, and had practiced the Nameless Art. They were bloodline witches, genetically predisposed to magic, with a lineage to ancestors who possessed the same sacred gifts. For those who tried to escape their heritage, it soon became clear that they couldn’t run away from who they were. A person could do her best to be ordinary and fit in, but the past could not be refuted, even when it was hidden from children thought to be too tender to know the truth. You didn’t choose magic, it chose you; it bloomed inside you, blood and bones. And a curse, once spoken, could not be denied. All the same, fate was what you made of it. You could make the best of it, or you could let it make the best of you. On this evening when she saw the truth in the library, Jet Owens decided she would do her best to change her family’s destiny. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

1. Centuries before the events in The Book of Magic, the Owens family matriarch, Maria Owens, invoked an enchantment meant to protect generations of her family to come. Discuss how the generations within The Book of Magic each deal with the curse and its restrictions. What other legacies did her family inherit?

2. Libraries play a critical role throughout the novel, and the Owens children were taught to find their way to a library if they were ever lost. What are some libraries, literal or otherwise, which have been havens for you? What do you seek out when feeling lost?

3. Sally is fiercely protective of her daughters, and keeps the truth of their magical inheritance and Maria’s curse from them. Do you think Sally had a right to keep the truth from her daughters? How does Sally evolve throughout the novel?

4. In one of Jet’s last messages before passing on she writes, “Everything worthwhile is dangerous.” What does she mean by this? Do you consider this a warning or encouragement?

5. Baking is used throughout the novel as its own form of magic, one that attracts goodwill and loved ones. Margaret welcomes her son home with favorites like ploughman’s pasties and ginger pudding, while the Owenses make pies to draw Kylie to them. What other food and drink play a role in the novel? How does the novel’s fare affect the characters and their relationships? Do you have any recipes which act as magic in your own home or family?

6. Consider Tom and Ian; both were exposed to the “Crooked Path” early in life, each with drastically different outcomes. What else is similar about these two men? Discuss what led to their contrasting conclusions. ?
7. The Book of Magic begins and ends in a library, and Alice Hoffman references many book titles throughout the novel. Check out the list of referenced titles after the final chapter and discuss which of them are familiar. Does anyone have a favorite? Are you planning to read one or more on the list? ??8. “Love was inside every story” Franny thinks towards the end of the novel. Discuss the different ways and different types–familial, romantic, mania, etc–of love in this book and how it shaped the story.

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