Saturday, May 22, 2010
Review: Garden Spells
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Pub Date: September 2007, Bantam Dell
Paperback, 290 pages
Book Source: Purchased from BJ's Wholesale
The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.
A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants - from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys - except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.
When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down - along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy - if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom - or with each other.
I will be the first to admit that I picked up this book solely based on the cover, but after reading the synopsis (above) I couldn't resist picking it up. Now, several months later I finally had a chance to read this book and really enjoyed it!
Enchanting is possibly the best word to describe this story. The "magical" garden--particularly the apple tree--at the Waverly home serves as a common thread throughout the entire story. Each of the main characters is vividly drawn and well-developed--you can't help but get caught up in their world. Claire is such an enigma at first, but by the end of the story we understand why she is the way she is. Her sister, Sydney, comes to find out that the choices she made and the way she has lived her life were based on assumptions about their mother that proved to be wrong. Evanelle is a hoot, with her burning needs to give people various items, which they never know why they need, but inevitably they find out one way or another. Even the two men that come into Claire and Sydney's lives are enjoyable to read about.
The romance that finds its way (unwanted, initially) to Claire is probably my favorite part of this book. It was just so satisfying to see unfold, not to mention the way it changed Claire. While Sydney's past caused her to doubt men (with respect to herself, not others, like Claire), she (re)discovers someone who might just be what she has always been looking for when she returns home. The writing wraps this book up in one pretty little package, though I would also caution that there are sexual references that might offend some. Normally I can live without that, myself, but in this case it did not serve as a major distraction and I am looking forward to reading other books by Sarah Addison Allen!
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