Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 28th 2007 by Bantam
Source: Goodreads giveaway signed edition
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.
I recently reread Garden Spells after winning a signed copy from Goodreads, and I found this book to be even better the second time around. This is Addison Allen’s debut novel and it set the bar for me for magical realism. I have devoured all of her books since then. The Waverley sisters are just a little bit off from the other residents of Bascom, North Carolina. This is something that no one lets them forget. As a child Claire came late to Bascom and wanted only to live a quiet and simple life. Her sister Sydney grew up wanting only to fit in with the regular townspeople and to be more than her family name.
I love the seemingly simple magical gifts the Waverley’s have. Claire does her magic with food, while Evanelle knows what object you might need before you do, Sydney has a gift with hair while her daughter can tell where things belong just by looking at them. They can’t make things fly or turn invisible-but what cool gifts and what a family legacy!
All that backstory brings us to present-day Bascom, when Sydney brings her daughter Bay to the Waverley family home. Throughout the novel, we learn more about the background of the family’s magic – and about the apple tree that throws its apples at people! In addition to the magic, this is also the story of Sydney and Claire trying to figure out who they each are, and figure out their relationship as sisters. And of course, this lovely novel wouldn’t be complete without some sweet, slow, Southern romance.
Sarah Addison Allen’s books always make me feel good. This reread left me with a smile on my face and ready to read First Frost-her upcoming release also about the Waverley sisters. I will be heading back to Bascom for rereads often I think now that I have my own signed copy. This will definitely be comfort reading for me.
Thank you Goodreads and St. Martin’s Press for this signed edition!