Alice Hoffman starts her book Magic Lessons with a baby being abandoned in a snowy field in rural England in the 1600s. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria Owens learns the “Nameless Arts”. Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl everything she knows. It is here Maria learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back. When Maria is ten, they discover that her birth mother is also a witch – and that she made some bad decisions in the name of love.
When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Maria’s beloved also happens to be the historical figure John Hawthorne, one of the judges in the Salem witch trials. Once in Salem, she invokes the curse that will haunt her family and she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life.