Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman
The readers must ask themselves a question…do they believe in magic or witchcraft? Do they think either is good or evil? Their beliefs will be challenged as they read the novel. Are the characters worthy of their respect or disdain?
The Owens family is very different. How different is the question? How will their differences affect their lives as well as the lives of others in the future? Do they have special powers that they cannot hide? How will they use them once discovered; how will they accept them is the $64,000 question? They are whispered about in their community and people stay away from them because of their rumored history. They are haunted by a curse that prevents them from experiencing real love without experiencing disastrous consequences as a result.
Frances is the serious, red-headed, scientific thinker of the family. She attempts to explain all of the unique abilities they have in a logical fashion. She is the eldest and therefore assumed to be the wisest. Birds are attracted to her like flies and she seems able to communicate with them. Although she loves someone, they vow to remain close but not to declare their love for fear of destroying it. She has a crow as a familiar. That crow, Lewis, is also devoted to Haylin, the boy with whom she has a relationship.
Jet is the gayer, more whimsical interpreter of life. She can read minds. She wants to defy the love curse and falls madly in love with a forbidden suitor, Levi Willard, a suitor who is somehow related to her ancestor Maria Owens. Jet is beautiful with lustrous black hair, and although she seems the more cautious, she is really possessed of a defiant courage. She has a black cat as a familiar. Wren, was given to Jet, by her Aunt Isabelle, after her parents were killed.
Maria Owens was a witch in the 1600’s who became involved with Judge John Hathorne. He was a married family man who impregnated her. Judge Hathorne accused Maria of being a witch, then went witch hunting, causing the deaths of many innocent women. Maria imposed the curse forbidding love for the Owens family into posterity to protect them.
Vincent is described as addictive. People are drawn to him. He is known as the wizard. He delves into the black arts and does magic tricks. When during a visit to his aunt, he is faced with the vision of his future, he grows distressed. Vincent drinks too much, leads a wild life and breaks rules. He is an entertainer. He plays his guitar, writes music and sings. He too falls deeply in love. He leads an alternate lifestyle as a homosexual. His familiar is a dog named Harry.
When a tragic accident takes the lives of their parents, Frances takes over as caregiver. Vincent continues his reckless life but Frances and Jet make potions and soaps to survive. They move from Manhattan to Massachusetts into the house left to them by Aunt Isabelle.
When the Owens girls learn the reason for the curse against their family, they are determined to outwit it. It began because of an illicit relationship between a clergyman and their ancestor. How they determine to live their lives and outsmart the curse is really the basis of the story, but it also points out that being different is not always a negative and all people should be embraced equally. The link between Jet’s great love, Levi Willard, and their ancestor, Maria Owens, is the key to the removal of their curse. Aunt Isabelle is the catalyst that helps them travel the right path in life. Cousin April and her daughter Regina bring love and family back into the lives of Jet and Frances reconnecting all of them to each other.