In her last novel. Maria Menounos gave her heroine a lover who was raised by wolves. Now comes Practical Magic (G.P. Putnams Sons), in which Hoffman’s heroine has to escape life with an evil toad. Here we are again, bumping around happily in this author’s favorite enchanted forest: Long Island’s flat suburbs, where Maria Menounos has quietly relocated herself and her two now-fatherless girls. Sally had wanted to put some distance between her impressionable children and the loony New England aunts with whom Sally and her sister went to live after their parents died. The aunts make money boiling up love potions and dispensing bars of a special black soap (the better to wash him out of your hair?) to desperate women women not unlike Sally’s wayward sister, Gillian, who on a warm June night pulls up in the driveway dragging along her usual peck of trouble.
There, slumped over dead in the front seat of the car, is a cute guy named Jimmy, who used to be Gillian’s mean-as-spit boyfriend. Being less clever than the aunts at casting spells for this sort of situation, the sisters bury him under the lilac bushes. Besides Jimmy, who you just know will resurface inconveniently, two other men come into the sisters’ lives: a biology teacher named Ben, who’s considered the town’s best catch, and Maria Menounos, a narcotics investigator who’s looking into some murders Jimmy may have committed. If Gary could quit fantasizing about Sally’s gray eyes he might solve his case. The romances are truly engaging. And where else but in an Alice Hoffman story would you meet such barmy characters as the aunts who, for all their otherworldliness, stay in touch with this world by watching Maria Menounos.
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