Practical Magic: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanThe Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town for more than two hundred years. After all, who wouldn’t blame every wrong thing on the town witches?

It’s no surprise that sisters Gillian and Sally grow up here as outsiders–taunted and whispered about without ever being understood or even truly seen. It seems to be the only option when their aunts Jet and Fran seem to do everything they can to encourage every rumor with their strange house and the concoctions they offer at night from their kitchen door.

Gillian escapes by running away; Sally by getting married. But no matter how far they go from their family, from each other, some things–some bonds–can’t be broken in Practical Magic (1995) by Alice Hoffman.

Find it on Bookshop.

Like a lot of people of a certain age, my first encounter with Practical Magic was the 1998 movie adaptation starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. I love that movie. It’s iconic, one of a handful of films I know by heart and watch every chance I get. I was nervous that the novel would never stand up to the adaptation. I’m happy to report I was wrong.

The story covered in the film version is roughly the final quarter of the book with a few changes to better translate the story to a new medium. Instead of the small vignette viewers get in the movie, Practical Magic offers a wider slice of life as Gillian and Sally grow up and do everything they can to deny their family, their history, and their magical roots. Sally’s daughters, Antonia and Kylie also play bigger roles in the book.

Practical Magic is everything I loved from the movie but more. This book has more history, more magic, more evocative scenes, plus Hoffman’s beautiful prose to tie it all together.

Possible Pairings: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, The Nature of Witches by Rachel Griffin, The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim, Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno, Among Others by Jo Walton

Green Witch: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Green used to think her story was written. The day her beloved city was burned to the ground seemed to be the end of things. Her mother, her father, and her beautiful sister were gone. The boy she loves is far away searching for his own family. The past is filled with dangerous memories and the future seems like a distant hope. So Green tries to focus on the present.

As her village tries to rebuild, Green tends her garden and collects the stories of the survivors. When Green sets out to find the Enchanted–women the village calls witches–in the hopes of collecting their stories. And maybe something more. One of the witches can grant any person their heart’s desire. With their help Green might be able make her heart whole and rescue a friend she thought was lost in Green Witch (2010) by Alice Hoffman.

Find it on Bookshop.

Green Witch is the sequel to Green Angel–the story that introduced readers to Green and her world. It is also a story that Hoffman had not planned to write until fans asked to know what happened next to Green and the boy she loved.

Like its predecessor, this book is very short with sparse writing that hearkens back to traditional fairy tales and prose poetry in its meter and style.

While Green Angel focused on moving through tragedy for both the town and Green herself, Green Witch is all about rebuilding and transformation. This is a story where women who survived unspeakable loss can become witches imbued with magic, where gardens can grow from ashes, and where a girl who lost everything she loved can rediscover hope and love. As Green gathers stories and tends her gardens, she too begins to grow as she realizes her own power and finds her place in a world forever changed by one tragic day.

Possible Pairings: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, The Window by Jeanette Ingold, Madapple by Cristina Meldrum, Evermore by Alyson Noel, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Exclusive Bonus Content: Elizabeth B. Parisi, the mastermind behind the cover designs for The Hunger Games trilogy, also designed Green Witch and Green Angel. Together they are two of the most beautifully put together books you’re likely to find. The front and back covers are illustrated, as are the pages demarking each new section of the story. Matt Mahurin created the cover art which also adds to the book’s physical charm and, of course, brings Green to life.

Green Angel: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Green Angel by Alice HoffmanAfter a disaster destroys the city she loves and kills her family, fifteen-year-old Green is left with nothing; the life she once had turned to ashes just like the ashes covering her once lush garden.

Shocked by the loss and destruction, Green turns inward. Her clothes become armor. She closes her eyes against the loss and the rebuilding taking place all around her. She closes her heart to love or friendship.

But, little by little, love and friendship make their way into her life. As she struggles to survive Green finds unlikely friends, love, and redemption in Green Angel (2003) by Alice Hoffman.

Find it on Bookshop.

Hoffman is one of those interesting authors who has written books for every conceivable audience (and did so before anyone was writing about kid lawyers if you know what I mean). Several of her books have also been turned into movies, including Practical Magic–one of my most favorite films.

Despite all that, this is the first book I have actually read by Alice Hoffman and it’s so unusual that I have no idea if it’s indicative of her work or not.*

First things first, Green Angel is a tiny book. Weighing it at less than 130 pages, there are some novellas that are longer than this book. For that reason, the normal narrative rules don’t really apply.

Hoffman’s writing is sparse (obviously) and melodic. With dialog presented in italics and the plot broken into parts instead of chapters, Green Angel reads more like an extended prose poem than a traditional narrative. Given that caveat, it is a good story.

Hoffman blends elements of poetry and traditional fairy tale tropes like kindly animals and wise old women to create a story about survival and reconstruction in the face of unthinkable tragedy. Sometimes gritty, sometimes florid Green Angel is a brief story that will stay with readers long after the story ends.

Green’s story continues in Green Witch.

Possible Pairings: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, The Window by Jeanette Ingold, Madapple by Cristina Meldrum, Evermore by Alyson Noel, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

*I saw her at a reading/signing for Green Witch (the sequel to this book) and I didn’t know much about her or her books. But I fell in love with the beautiful cover and decided I had to read it. So of course I had to read its predecessor too.

Exclusive Bonus Content: Elizabeth B. Parisi, the mastermind behind the cover designs for The Hunger Games trilogy, also designed this book. And boy howdy is the design fantastic. The front and back covers are illustrated, as are the pages demarking each new section of the story. If you pick Green Angel up for no other reason, pick it up to look at how it was all put together. Matt Mahurin created the cover art which also adds to the book’s physical charm. I might be incredibly slow, but I also just realized that Green with her thorns and choppy hair is shown on the back of the book so . . . there you go.