Published: June 13, 1995
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Received: Borrowed from my best friend
"What had she thought, that love was a toy, something easy and sweet, just to play with? Real love was dangerous, it got you from inside and held on tight, and if you didn't let go fast enough you might be willing to do anything for its sake."
Sally and Gillian Owens are orphaned at a young age. They are sent to live with their aunts: two older women who are known throughout their small Massachusetts town as witches. Both girls grow up resentful of their aunts and their aunts' practice, but the girls take this resentment out in different ways. Sally doesn't believe in the aunts' power, but she's always a good girl. She takes care of Gillian, the house, and ultimately her own family. After her husband's untimely death, Sally takes her two girls and moves away from the aunts. Gillian had left years earlier. She sought escape through boys--taking enough time to make them fall in love and then breaking their hearts when she couldn't feel the same.
"Some people cannot be warned away from disaster. You can try, you can put up every alert, but they'll still go their own way."
Gillian needs Sally's help. Sally's girls are on the cusp of adulthood, but still young enough to be swayed by Gillian's antics. Sally doesn't want her sister being a bad influence, but she still loves her sister. So Sally helps Gillian bury her abusive dead ex in their backyard. But that's only the beginning of the end.
I loved this book. I'm obsessed with the movie. I think I saw it shortly after it came out, when I was young. I loved everything about it. I still love to watch it frequently. The book is really different than the movie. This is one time where I'm glad I read the book after the movie. Because reading the book, I could easily see a movie, but it wouldn't have been the one that was made. The movie took some liberties in basically every area to make the story more cinematic.
This book really tackles the idea of love in every form. Is love still love if it can wane with devotion? Is it love if you have to take it from someone else? Is it love if it comes with pain? Is it love to want to protect people regardless of age or personal wishes? It looks at relationships from every angle: friendship, romantic love, familial ties. And Hoffman's writing is beautiful. It weaves the illusion of magic in the pages themselves.
I would recommend this book to fans of magical realism and fans of intricate relationships.