White Horses: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

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“During the summer when she was eleven, Teresa believed that the crickets who lived in the weeds that sprang through the sidewalk were trying to speak to her.”

With Alice Hoffman’s brand new prequel to Practical Magic coming out in October, titled The Rules Of Magic (I’m excited) I read Practical Magic again and hence, a few of her older books I keep on my shelf. I initially reviewed this novel back in 2012, it’s been years so I read it again before adding a review to my blog. What I think worked beautifully in this novel is the damage parents can do unwittingly just by speaking of their dreams, telling their stories. Dina’s belief in an Aria coming to take her away when she was young (an outlaw, dark eyes, quiet, that can ride horses even blindfolded to the woman they love and aren’t afraid of anything- warps her own daughter’s heart much in the same way Dina’s longing led her down a bad path. When King Connors came along, she was too young to know he wasn’t the man she conjured up in the image of an Aria. Heeding no one’s warnings, she fell in love with King, the wrong man in the wrong life. “Your father? That big shot couldn’t even stand a little hot weather. I wasted everything on him,” Dina said, dragging a stick over the earth in neat lines. “I was stupid. I was so young I couldn’t see straight.” Teresa’s brother Silver may be the closest thing to an Aria any of them will ever know. Women of all ages fall for Silver, he has the reckless, dangerous appeal that is the fall of many a young woman.
Dina is a shell of the beautiful girl she once was, ruined by the wrong man, Teresa’s father. When the investigator hired by Dina’s father years ago to find her discovers the old man is dead, his conscience drives him to track her down. This sets the family on a strange path, one of return to the past as Dina, with her children in tow, returns home to Santa Fe and the grandmother they never met. But before they depart, her parents fight after finding out about Dina’s father’s death, Teresa slips into sleeping fits, with no medical explanation. Teresa’s mysterious slumber, the scent of roses filling the air, her mother lighting candles surrounding her bed to ward off evil, is this family cursed? Naturally, that Dina’s estranged mother falls for her grandson Silver and cares little for Dina’s other two children, is no surprise. This Silver is a ‘special’ boy, but she sees too his true nature. Can hunger be passed down? For Teresa is hungry for passion and love and her heart is bent the wrong way. It’s not too late for Dina to find love and set aside her foolish, girlish dreams of Arias but is it too late for Teresa to save herself, to untangle herself from the foolish notions her mother has planted in her fertile young mind?
This is a complex story, so much damage and getting things right requires wiping the sleep from her eyes, shucking the family myths. Seems easy, right? Everything is easy to fix in the eyes of onlookers or readers. Just how do this unmentionable things happen in a family?

Understandably an awkward read for some but I don’t think the subject matter would have changed how I felt about the novel if the the Silver/Teresa relationship were approached differently. I have noted there are some people who have read this novel first and have not gone on to read other Hoffman novels, which is a shame because she has written wonderful fiction and they are only cheating themselves. Looking back, if you could read this novel and think about the nature of the relationships, how the mother and her own father’s ‘fantastical ‘ leanings altered the family line, it hits you differently. Naturally for many, reading about an incestuous relationship between brother and sister doesn’t sit well. But looking deeper into the story, it’s more about the mythology we create or are sold about those in our lives, particularly in our own family. If you set aside the forbidden desires, and focus on how we delude ourselves, it stands strong in how we sabotage our own happiness. I won’t summarize nor elaborate, but for those who have not read Hoffman, trust that not all of her novels touch on such a taboo subject. All of them have a touch of magic, that has been a huge draw for me, and her characters are flawed like all of us. For the rest of you die hard fans, mark the date October 10, 2017 when The Rules of Magic will be released.

Available Now
Open Road Integrated Media

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