Incantation is a love story….a historical tragedy….and a whirlwind of a novel where a ‘secret’ is revealed, and you find yourself waiting to see what happens with bated breath. The story revolves around Estrella deMadrigal, a lovely teen who lives during a harsh reality when Jews who refused conversion to Christianity suffered unimaginable consequences. She’s a girl who lives in total admiration of her family, including her severe and immensely wise grandparents, her creative mother, and her brother who is studying to become a priest. Her best friend Catalina, a question mark for the reader from the start, is her confidante, until she allows her true colors to shine through, thus confirming all suspicions.
The setting of the novel is horrific from the start, as books are burned, Jews are forced to wear red circles, neighbors are rewarded for turning one another in, and persecution abounds. Estrella quickly moves from naïve to gravely aware, as she’s forced to cope with astonishing religious intolerance.
At only 166 pages, this book felt incredibly brief. Alice Hoffman’s writing is rich as usual, and she somehow manages to develop the characters in a very short span. I still found myself wishing that the book was longer though, as I wanted to know more about Estrella’s neighbors, her love, and her future. Overall, it’s a beautiful and emotional read, and one that will make sure that you keep picking up more treasures by Alice Hoffman. 4 stars.