Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Number of pages: 290
My copy: hardbound, gift from Kwesi. Thank you! :)
The women of the Waverley family — whether they like it or not — are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.
For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother’s unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town’s constraints. Using her grandmother’s mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business — and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life — upon the family’s peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire’s routine existence upside down. With Sydney’s homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire’s own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.
As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney’s child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.
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I’ve heard so many good things about Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, but it took me a while before I acquired it and even some more time before I decided to read it. Every now and then, there’s a book that comes along and takes you in and makes you comfortable with every page. They’re those books that you just sink into effortlessly, almost like it was an old friend welcoming you with warm food after a long day’s travel. I am very, very glad to say that Garden Spells is one of them. :)
Claire Waverley has lived alone for a long time now, choosing to stay in the Waverley house, running her catering business that offers the strangest but life-altering delicacies. Being a Waverley, Claire possesses a kind of magic that is unique to her: she can cook food from their garden that can shape the minds and moods of people who eat them. Claire is content with living alone and is not in any hurry to relinquish control over her routines until her wild and rebellious sister Sydney comes home with her daughter. Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down as she deals with her sister’s homecoming, and she tries desperately to stay in control even if she’s afraid of the changes this would bring in her life.
Garden Spells, in a word, is lovely. This book reminds me of Marisa de los Santos’ books, Love Walked In and Belong to Me, both of which I loved. The prose is lyrical but never flowery, the characters quirky but never too much that they’d be annoying or forced. I love that all characters had something going on with them — even the apple tree had a personality. Just like Waverley magic, there’s something really magical about this book, just enough that you wouldn’t question the people’s abilities or the things they believed in the little town of Bascom. Granted, there isn’t anything that surprising with regards to the book’s plot, but there’s just a certain charm in this book that would stop you from caring too much. It’s like you want to live with them there. This book should also not be read while hungry (or if you’re on a diet, like the HCG diet Austin) because all the descriptions of food made me hungrier! It makes me wonder if there is some truth in the life-altering food that Claire makes. Maybe if I put candied violets in my cake…? Haha, right. I can dream.
It’s not often I let out a contented sigh at the end of a book, but this got one out of me. Sigh. If all of Sarah Addison Allen’s books are as yummy and as magical as Garden Spells, then consider me a fan. I can’t wait to get my hands on her other books. :)