Alice Hoffman (born March 16, 1952) is an American novelist and young-adult and children's writer, best known for her 1995 novel Practical Magic, which was adapted for a 1998 film of the same name. Many of her works fall into the genre of magic realism and contain elements of magic, irony, and non-standard romances and relationships.

Alice Hoffman in 2019


  • She liked to disappear, even when she was in the same room as other people. It was a talent, as it was a curse.
    • The Red Garden (2011)
  • What you dream, you can grow.
    • Green Witch (2010)
  • Artists have themes that they go back to—that they are haunted by and obsessed with.
  • I think it's bad for writers to think too much about what their themes are, or to over-intellectualize their own work. I think it is much better for readers to think about that. They are not defensive, so they usually understand it at a different level, a purer level. I don't want to understand it too thoroughly. I just want to do it.
  • The weak are cruel. The strong have no need to be.
    • The Foretelling (2005)
  • He started to look at me in a manner I recognized: it was the way I looked at a new book, one I had never read before, one that surprised me with all it had to say.
    • Blackbird House (2004)
  • When all is said and done, the weather and love are the two elements about which one can never be sure.
    • Here on Earth (1997)
  • “For me—as I think it is for a lot of women and girls—I felt that they were figures that had power, and I felt very powerless,” she said. “It was just very exciting and thrilling to think of a witch who didn’t care if she was portrayed as ugly—which of course, I felt like I was—or not beautiful enough or whatever, but still had power and didn’t need to be rescued.”
  • It is clear when reading about the Holocaust that evil exists. But what was less apparent to me until I began to do research (for "The World That We Knew") was how much good there also is in the world.
  • For me, magic is reading and writing.
  • I don't think it's a good idea to compare yourself to anyone. You are who you are and no one can write the way you do. I always want to tell that to young writers. The most important thing is to tell your story.
  • I usually do start with setting. I try to build a fictional world, and then hope that the characters will walk into it.
  • I think that I always wanted to tell the stories of women who were not able to tell their own stories.
  • I didn't believe in writers block until I had it. After 9/11 I couldn't write and the way I got out of it was to read one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury...(Why couldn't you write after 9/11?) AH: I was so depressed and hopeless about the state of the world. When I re-read Fahrenheit 451, a book about how important books are, I was reminded of the reason to write.
  • I always think it helps not to think about anyone reading your work, but to write what you would want to read.

The World That We Knew (2019)

  • If you do not believe in evil, you are doomed to live in a world you will never understand. But if you do believe, you may see it everywhere, in every cellar, in every tree, along streets you know and streets you've never been on before. In the world that we knew, Hanni Kohn saw what was before her. She would do whatever she must to save those she loved, whether it was right or wrong, permitted or forbidden. (first lines)
  • The most she dared to wish for now was to live long enough to become a woman. (p46)
  • "We must hope for the best," she told the girl. She might have said more if she'd had the freedom to speak her mind, but in her formation she hadn't been given the choice to confide what she felt. If she could do so there would have been much she would have said: how green the verdant countryside was, how bright the light had become, how grateful she was to her maker each and every minute, how the birds in the treetops could be heard even when the train rumbled by, how the first of the season's bees hit against the windowpanes as if searching for flowers, how absolutely marvelous it was to be in the world. (p72)
  • What they held in common was their aloneness, and in time, thrown together, with no world other than their own, they grew close. (p103)
  • This is how it began, out of water, out of clay, out of air, when it was not expected, when it should have never happened, when no one else understood who she was. (p113)
  • Two brilliant colleagues who were now wearing rags, carrying their children on their backs, thinking of starvation rather than algebra. (p116)
  • She was finally here, in the place where she had found a future. Still, night after night, the past was with her. (p197)
  • the Germans had researched her family; they were very thorough after all, and they knew things about her grandfather that she herself didn't know. She would think of this in the camp they took her to after she was arrested, how little she knew about the person she loved most in this world. (p214)
  • It was a wonder, a message that all things were possible, even in this cruel world. (p215)
  • You are the man I admired most of all, Julien would say to him if he could, if they were lying side by side watching the universe expand all around them. (p283)
  • 'Because of this what transpired between them was something they hadn't expected, it was almost as if they had fallen in love in a world where anything could happen and nothing was impossible. (p295)
  • Every now and then a crow would soar past with a gold ring or coat button in its beak, a shiny souvenir of murder. (p298)
  • Human lives were like quicksilver; let go and they vanished. But not this time. (p319)
  • He realized how little he knew of this world, but he knew this: If you could love someone, you possessed a soul. (p348)
  • If you are loved, you never lose the person who loved you. You carry them with you all your life.
  • That was how evil spoke. It made its own corrupt sense; it swore that the good were evil, and that evil had come to save mankind. It brought up ancient fears and scattered them on the street like pearls. To fight what was wicked, magic and faith were needed. This was what one must turn to when there was no other option.
  • He wondered why it was only when you were at the end of your life that it was possible to view it with honesty and truth.

The Rules of Magic (2017)

  • Other people’s judgments were meaningless unless you allowed them to mean something.
  • Know that the only remedy for love is to love more.
  • I just do the best I can to face what life brings. That’s the secret, you know. That’s the way you change your fate.

Interview with Goodreads (2017)

  • that was kind of the '60s mentality, too—you didn't need to be published, that was mainstream. You just wanted to be an artist and create something.
  • For me—and I think for most writers—you're a reader first and then it just happens. You so love it that you want to be part of it, and you start writing.
  • It's so easy for me—and probably other writers—to write something and think, "This is garbage, I'm throwing it out." But if you give yourself time, you can write your way into the story. So I try not to read it until I have about 50 pages. Then I feel like I have enough distance, and I'm not as highly critical of myself.
  • (Have you noticed a change in the industry toward women writers since you began writing?) AH: I don't think women are treated the same as men in anything, so why would they be treated the same in literature? I think that there's a different standard, and it's difficult for women, even though, weirdly, it's women who read the most fiction. I don't know what the right word for it is, but I think that some women writers are not looked at with the same kind of respect or seriousness.
  • For people who want to be a writer—and maybe this is true for anything you want to be in life—if one person believes in you, that's enough. And my grandmother really believed in me.

  • Even though laws have changed we still have so many social constraints and so many rules that we set for ourselves and that society sets for us. It’s very difficult still to be a woman.
  • I don’t think about rules when I’m writing – that’s the great thing about writing: it’s the one place in my life that I can do whatever I want.
  • For me, reading and magic always went together...For me, literature and magic have always gone together in terms of subject matter but also in what literature does to a reader – it casts a magic spell.
  • In a way, I feel survival is always my subject matter.
  • (Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?) All time — Emily Brontë, author of the greatest psychological novel ever written, with the most complex character ever conceived...My favorite novelist working today is our greatest living writer, Toni Morrison. Nothing compares with her lyrical, heart-wrenching, gorgeous prose.
  • I have no guilt regarding my love of fantasy and science fiction, only pleasure. I grew up reading the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I chuckle over how this “genre” has become mainstream and how time travel, alternative universes and magic are now so everyday. Plus, no one could ever feel guilty about reading writers like Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip K. Dick.
  • no book makes me furious. Maybe sad, or lost, or confused, but mostly joy and wonder are the emotions involved. That’s why I prefer books to people.
  • That’s still the best reading experience: falling in love with a book I meet by accident.

Survival Lessons (2013)

  • you can't run away by ignoring the truth. Truth follows you; it comes in through open windows and drifts under doors. When it comes to sorrow, no one is immune. (preface)
  • I've always believed there is a very thin line that separates readers and writers. You make a leap over that line when there's a book you want to read and you can't find it and you have to write it yourself. (preface)
  • I wrote to remind myself that in the darkest hour the roses still bloom, the stars still come out at night (preface)
  • I've often wondered if I spent too much time inside of books. If perhaps I ended up getting lost in there. I feared that reading, and later writing, stopped me from living a full life in the real world. I still don't know the answer to this, but I'm not sure I would have gotten past being twelve without Ray Bradbury, and I know that imagining the plot for my novel The River King during a lengthy bone scan helped me get through that test. (p 35)
  • During my radiation treatment I read Man's Search for Meaning. People said, Isn't that book depressing? But it wasn't. It was honest...We are all responsible for our actions, and our reactions. We are responsible for how we respond to situations we cannot control. (p 43)
  • Write it down. Even if it's a few sentences. Because you won't remember. You think you will never forget, but you will. Write down your life story or a poem. Sometimes shorter is better. Make a list of what all you have loved in this unfair and beautiful world. (p 82)

The Dovekeepers (2011)

  • Perhaps it is possible to discover more in silence than in speech. Or perhaps it is only that those who are silent among us learn to listen.
  • Even as a small child, I understood that woman had secrets, and that some of these were only to be told to daughters. In this way we were bound together for eternity.
  • This was what it meant to be human, to know that time moved and all things changed.
  • Here is the riddle of love: Everything it gives to you, it takes away.

Practical Magic (1995)

  • For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in town. If a damp spring arrived, if cows in the pasture gave milk that was runny with blood, if a colt died of colic or a baby was born with a red birthmark stamped onto his cheek, everyone believed that fate must have been twisted, at least a little, by those women over on Magnolia Street. It didn't matter what the problem was-lightning, or locusts, or a death by drowning. It didn't matter if the situation could be explained by logic, or science, or plain bad luck. As soon as there was a hint of trouble or the slightest misfortune, people began pointing their fingers and placing blame. Before long they'd convinced themselves that it wasn't safe to walk past the Owens house after dark, and only the most foolish neighbors would dare to peer over the black wrought-iron fence that circled the yard like a snake. (beginning)
  • Trouble is just like love, after all; it comes in unannounced and takes over before you've had a chance to reconsider, or even to think. (p59)
  • No one knows you like a person with whom you've shared a childhood. No one will ever understand you in quite the same way. (p84)
  • The lonelier you are, the more you pull away, until humans seem an alien race, with customs and a language you can't begin to understand. (p145)
  • I never even believed in happiness. I didn't think it existed. Now look at me. I'm ready to believe in just about anything." (p161)

Introduction to the 25th Anniversary Edition (2003)

  • Many of us know what it's like to try to escape a family legacy of one sort or another, only to discover that in the long run we carry our heritage with us no matter how far we might run.
  • Witches are outsiders, and those among us who have been bullied and ostracized can relate to their plight. Part of our fascination with witches is that they are the only female mythic figures with power. These are women who don't need to be rescued by a prince or a king but, instead, can save
  • I start writing a novel with a question I need answered. Practical Magic addresses serious questions about the place of women in our society-questions that are as important, or more so, than they were twenty-five years ago. Unfortunately, over the past quarter century, the place of a woman in society has not moved forward as we had wished, then and now. There are still many of the same issues left to address: equal pay, childcare, healthcare, sexual assault. Magic may not be able to right these wrongs, but sisterhood just might. The years have only intensified the importance of telling women's stories, and doing our best to ensure that women who have been forced to be silent can speak and tell their own truths.
  • I loved magic from the start, beginning with the stories my Russian grandmother told me. If "magic" was in the title of a book, I was bound to find it. In the world of fairy tales, the amazing is recounted in a matter-of fact tone, with the practical and the magical living side by side. One day there is a knock at the door, or a rose that blooms through the winter, or a spindle that must be avoided at all costs. It was the melding of the magical and the everyday that was most affecting to me as a reader, for the world I lived in seemed much the same. People you loved could disappear, through death or divorce; they could turn into heroes or beasts. My personal experience and my childhood reading left me longing for a world in which anything could happen, magic or not, on an ordinary day.
  • The family dynamics are complex; and as often happens in our own lives, how we view the people close to us, even when they are fictional characters, depends on where we stand in the world at that time.

Interview with Indiebound

  • I believed anything can happen. It was a huge escape for me as reader. I loved anything that could remove me from reality and make me see possibilities. Fiction in general gives you the freedom of exploring the truth without boundaries, to get to a deeper truth, and fairy tales have always been my model.
  • I've always tried to go directly from sleep to the computer, before I have the time to start censoring myself. I like to get up at 5:00. I do my best work early in the morning before the world's awake. For the kind of fiction I write, which is emotional fiction, you have to let go. Let the walls down, the defenses down. Don't worry about what people are going to think.
  • I always feel you're writing the book you couldn't find, so you have to write it yourself.
  • I believe literature can change things

Quotes about Alice Hoffman

  • My favorite writer is Alice Hoffman; she’s brilliant.
  • Alice Hoffman takes seemingly ordinary lives and lets us see and feel extraordinary things.
    • Amy Tan blurb in Practical Magic 25th Anniversary Edition (2003)
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