“Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Nameless Art.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift, and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.
When Maria is betrayed by the man who once declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it is here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson she will carry with her for the rest of her life: Love is the only thing that matters.”
-Synopsis from inside front cover
Trigger warnings: death, illness, death of animals, animal abuse, kidnapping, family separation, abandonment, drowning. These themes appear in the book but will not appear in this review.
Magic Lessons has been the most surprising book of the Practical Magic series for me so far. I did not know what to expect from this book, and found it to be very dark and quite sad. I think this is because so much of history is filled with horror stories of how women and people of color were treated for thousands of years, and seeing that up close through books that dip into historical fiction is always a challenge for me.
Part of me was excited to see Maria Owens in Salem, and that quickly evaporated because I have read so much about that era of American history and could only go into those chapters of the book with a deep sense of foreboding. This brief time period when witchcraft accusations were rampant in this part of the country was truly horrific for the women who were accused and suffered, many dying as a result. I really did not want to see a member of the Owens family going through that and those chapters were difficult.
With all of that being said, I was very curious about this book because Maria Owens, the original ancestor of the Owens women, is mentioned so much throughout the Practical Magic series. I wanted to know where she came from and what her story was, and we are treated to just that with a full circle telling of her life.
“When you look into your own future, you may see only what you want to see, and even the wisest woman can make a mistake especially in matters of love.”from Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman
While parts of this story are dark, it did bring about a satisfying and happy ending that left me smiling. I am not sure how else the story could have been told considering the time period, so in some ways it was not as worse as it could have been. Maria is a brave character who endures so much in her life starting in England, and throughout the rest of her journeys around the world. She learns valuable lessons about love, taking what is yours, knowing when to let something or someone go, and how to fight for your life.
“This how you begin in this world. These are the lessons to be learned. 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.”from Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman
I now have one book in the series left to read, The Book of Magic, which I am looking forward to reading soon.