I’ve never been one to get into spooky season for Halloween, and I often forget that it’s coming and need to throw together a costume last minute. Every year, though, I always tell myself that I should read Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman…and I never do. So why start now? Instead, when the Amazon First reads for this month came out, I scrolled through the list as I usually do and saw Alice Hoffman’s name under The Bookstore Sisters…and I was in. Then I realized it was a short story. I’ve never read one on its own and not part of a collection, but I was willing to try it.
Isabel Gibson has all but perfected the art of forgetting. She’s a New Yorker now, with nothing left to tie her to Brinkley’s Island, Maine. Her parents are gone, the family bookstore is all but bankrupt, and her sister, Sophie, will probably never speak to her again.
But when a mysterious letter arrives in her mailbox, Isabel feels drawn to the past. After years of fighting for her independence, she dreads the thought of going back to the island. What she finds there may forever alter her path—and change everything she thought she knew about her family, her home, and herself.
It’s a very short book, so I will make my review reasonably short. Though the plot is relatively simple and predictable, it is a charming, feel-good story. It has a small-town-coming-together feel, which I’m a sucker for, and you get a love story between family and long-lost love. You’ll get a sense of place here—you’ll feel both like an outsider and like you belong, if that makes any sense. If you have about 45 minutes to read something in one sitting, I recommend this.
“One world has been hastily written in black marker. Help. Isabel wondered how a single word could have such a great effect, but she burst into tears.” —Alice Hoffman, The Bookstore Sisters
Thank you to Aubrey Odom Mabey on Unsplash for the featured photo.