By Vanessa V. Friedman
Updated June 09, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

If there is an author north of the border who has managed to successfully translate the language of magic realism into the American idiom, it is Alice Hoffman. Her books — often tales of small-town loves, rivalries, tragedies, and epiphanies — are replete with miracles; angels rise from the pages with the regularity of the seasons; devils are as unexceptional as the occasional thunderstorm. The fantastic is as easy to digest as orange juice. And so it is with her latest novel, Practical Magic: Spells are cast, a dead criminal causes the rampant bloom of lilacs, and the two main characters — orphaned sisters named Gillian and Sally — have latent powers that allow them to see ghosts and inspire undying love. There are some nonmagical occurrences, to be sure: Sally gets married and has two daughters; they move to a suburb; Gillian hooks up with some bad men; Sally’s daughters learn about growing up. Yet the true magic of a Hoffman book is that it makes even the ordinary seem extraordinary. A-