March 16th marks best-selling author Alice Hoffman’s 66th birthday, and for fangirls like me, this is real cause for celebration! Hoffman has written close to 40 novels, including two for middle grade readers and six in YA. She is a gifted storyteller whose writing always involves magic and fantasy, often wandering into the world of fairy tales. Whether addressing friendship, family, love, broken hearts, or betrayal, Hoffman’s characters are quirky, richly developed, and totally relatable. Hoffman is probably best known for her 1995 novel, “Practical Magic” which was turned into a popular film by the same name. I have read everything she’s ever written at least once….several of her books just get better the more times you read them. What follows is just a sample of Alice Hoffman’s treasures.
“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.” Aunt Frances in “Practical Magic”
“The Rules of Magic,” released in October 2017 is actually the prequel to “Practical Magic” and is a story set in the 1960’s, revolving around the lives of Franny and Jet, and their brother, Vincent. This is a captivating story which dives further into the Owens’ family history and is a must-read for anyone who loved the eccentric, meddling aunts first introduced in “Practical Magic.”
“The Museum of Extraordinary Things” is the story of a young woman, Coralie, the daughter of a freak show charlatan. She is an amazing swimmer who stars as the mermaid in her father’s show. When her path crosses that of a young photographer and Russian immigrant named Eddie, their love challenges convention and calls into question just what they each know to be real and true about their world.
“The Dovekeepers” took Hoffman five years to research and write and is considered by most to be her best work. It is the story of four brave, uncompromising women who were encamped at a mountain plateau in the Judean desert known as Masada. Each of these women has much to lose if their secrets come to light. It truly is a beautiful novel, both magical and suspenseful, and one to be read more than once and shared.
“The Story Sisters” seems to be one of Hoffman’s lesser known novels, something I find hard to understand! This one reads like a fairy tale as it tells the story of three sisters whose lives are forever changed by an encounter with a stranger as young girls. Time does not heal all wounds and the intervention and unconditional love of their Parisian grandmother is pivotal to their healing. Full of beautiful imagery, this is a captivating story that really lends itself well to a book group discussion setting.
“Blackbird House,” is the story of a farm on Cape Cod and several generations of people who live there. It almost reads like a collection of stories with the farm as the one, magical constant in the lives of the people who have lived there.
“Nightbird” is Hoffman’s most recent middle grade novel. Although aimed at kids aged 8-12 years, this is a beautifully written novel that would be enjoyed by older kids and adults as well. It is a perfect read-aloud choice for parents who enjoy sharing a story with their kids. Twig is a young girl who lives in a small town where everyone believes in fairy tales and fears the monster in their midst. The townspeople know that Twig’s family was cursed by a witch 200 years ago. That curse means that any boy born into her family has wings. Will Twig’s brother’s wings keep him shut away or will they help him fly to the girl he loves?
My favorite YA novels from Alice Hoffman are “Green Angel” and the sequel, “Green Witch.” Fans of “Green Angel” were the ones who pushed Hoffman to write the second book, so engrossed were they in the story of Green, a tragic heroine whose life is filled with loss and strife. Green must make a pilgrimage away from her home, following a group of witches whose own stories will unlock her heart and bring her peace and happiness. These books are about confronting your fears and do so with a young female protagonist you won’t soon forget.
Finally, Hoffman has written one non-fiction book, “Survival Lessons.” In 1998, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and 15 years later she wrote this beautiful, poignant, inspiring book that will make you smile, and make you cry, and share with you a few good recipes and a pattern for a beanie. It’s about surrounding yourself with people who bolster your spirits and feed your soul. This little book is one of my favorites to give as a gift and one I pick up regularly for inspiration.
I can’t resist leaving you with one last quote which really does express Hoffman’s gift:
“When all is said and done, the weather and love are the two elements about which one can never be sure.” Alice Hoffman