Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review of Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Garden SpellsThe 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.

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own.

I will be honest with you all: despite having lived in Texas and Florida for the first nine years of my life, I hold some preconceived notions about the south, and I imagine that some of my notions may be unfair and untrue, perhaps even outdated. I’ve also visited New Orleans, but perhaps someday I should explore more of the south and reconsider my notions. At any rate, when I think of the south, I think of a southern accent, fried food, debutantes and sweet tea. Garden Spells didn’t necessarily prove any of my assumptions to be correct, but it did provide some excellent drama and a lovely family story.

The Waverley family is a unique family in that all of them have some sort of magical power, like Evanelle, who has to give people things, although she doesn’t understand why. However, Allen gave other families similar legacies, and I thought that was a cool concept, especially since it can be kind of true to real life. For example, my mother’s side of the family is notoriously bad at making plans whereas my father’s side of the family are known for being neat nicks with not a lot of extra stuff just sitting around. At any rate, I found the Waverley family charming, although I did sometimes get a bit frustrated with Claire. She is, however, a caterer who specializes in edible plants, so if you’re a big plant eater or a lover of sugar then be prepared to be made hungry!

There was definitely some “Don’t you go stealing my man as I prove I’m better than you!” drama going on between Sydney and her former best friend, Emma. While Emma’s insecurity and lack of prudence were a little irritating, I found this aspect of the story amusing because it got a little ridiculous at times. I liked her husband Hunter John, however, for the fact that he had backbone.

And the romance. While neither the romances between Claire and Tyler and Sydney and Henry weren’t the most original, they were sweet, and I found it hard not to like Tyler. Furthermore, I thought that they were done in a way that fit with the atmosphere of the novel.

Garden Spells is a swift, emotional and lovely read. While it’s not the most stunning or original book I’ve ever read, it kept a smile on my face and I didn’t want to put it down.

Disclosure: I won a copy of this book from Jen of The Introverted Reader. Thanks, Jen!

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