Author: Alice Hoffman
Narrator: Sutton Foster
Audiobook Length: 13 hours 26 minutes
From New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman comes the origin story of her beloved novel and basis for the cult classic film Practical Magic—taking us on a captivating journey to the Salem witch trials, featuring the indomitable matriarch of the Owens family, Maria.
It’s no secret that love has plagued the Owens family for centuries. But when did the curse begin, and why? It all began with Maria Owens, who arrived in America in 1680, with a baby in tow…
Born with pitch-black hair and pale green eyes, Maria was abandoned in the English countryside by her birth mother and raised by Hannah Owens who warned her, “Always love someone who will love you back.” She inherits Hannah’s Grimoire—a magical book of enchantments that include instructions to heal illnesses, ingredients for soaps that restore youth, and spells that make a person burn with love for another. When Hannah dies in an attack, Maria leaves for Curacao, where she meets John Hathorne, a magistrate from Salem living freely for the first time in his life as he falls in love with Maria. But Hathorne soon abandons her, before Maria realizes she’s pregnant. When she gives birth to a red-headed baby girl, Faith, who possesses immense magical talent, Maria embarks on a voyage to Salem to face her destiny, with or without magic.
But aboard the ship bringing her to America, fate intervenes and she meets a man who will change her life, if she’ll only let him. Her journey, laced with secrets and truths, devastation and joy, magic and curses, will show her that love is the only answer, always.
I greatly enjoyed the movie, Practical Magic, so I was excited to see that it also was an entire series featuring the Owens family. I debated whether to start reading the first novel or to try the prequels first and ended up going with this prequel as it became available at my library before the others. This story follows Maria Owens, who was abandoned in Essex County in England and came to eventually live in New England set in the 1600s.
Maria’s story follows her navigating changes in her life, including becoming a mother to her daughter, Faith. Fiction meets reality as a love interest is John Hathorne, who was a real historical figure in the Salem Witch Trials. Maria’s journey with the Unnamed Arts comes when she is mentored by Hannah Owens. This leads to the Owens Family Curse where those that love them are doomed, so I loved getting this part of the story. When she is accused of being a witch, she escaped with Samuel Dias which leads to a very complex relationship between them.
Since this is a prequel, most readers know how this part of the story ends, so it was interesting to see how it began. Knowing her mistakes lead to different tragedies and how her decisions shaped the future was intriguing as you can begin to wonder how it would have turned out differently with small changes. The fictional portion of this story weaved together with the historical facts was well done. The pacing is slower, which may not be for every type of reader, as each stage in Maria’s life is explored. I greatly look forward to continuing the series soon!