on August 28th 2007
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In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.…
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.
Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own….
Garden Spells tells the story of two gifted sisters: Claire Waverley, a successful caterer in their hometown who has a decidedly magical touch with food, and Sydney, the younger sister who left town at an early age only to run into trouble forcing her to return to Bascom, North Carolina with her six year old daughter, Bay. Sydney left her hometown in an attempt to run from what it means to be a Waverley, and the magical gifts they have, as well as from the heartbreak caused by the breakup with her high school boyfriend. While Sydney bounced from city to city, Claire remained in their childhood home where their late grandmother lived and led a quiet life of solitude until Sydney came back into her life.
Garden Spells centers around the two Waverley sisters but manages to incorporate a full cast into a small amount of pages without overdoing it. My favorite character was Evanelle, a “second or third or fourteenth cousin” that also has her own unique gift: she would get sudden urges to gift individuals with certain items which they would inevitably need sooner or later. She was a complete hoot and added a distinct sense of humor to the tale. We’re also given passages told from the points of view of love interests, other townsfolk and six-year-old Bay who possesses the gift of knowing just exactly where things belong. Garden Spells is so heartwarming and realistic seeing two sisters who had grown apart over the years reintegrate one another into their lives. On top of the wonderful magical flairs, it’s also the perfect read for fans of what I like to call “foodie fiction”. Claire, being an owner of a catering business, is often cooking and her delicious sounding masterpieces are described in intricate detail.
‘Anise hyssop honey butter on toast, angelica candy, and cupcakes with crystallized pansies made children thought. Honeysuckle wine served on the Fourth of July gave you the ability to see in the dark. The nutty flavor of the dip made from hyacinth bulbs made you feel moody and think of the past, and the salads made with chicory and mint had you believing that something good was about to happen, whether it was true or not.’
Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors and I don’t say that lightly. I can always count on her books to have a whimsical tale that will put a smile on my face and lead me to hours of enjoyment. Oddly enough, I didn’t always have such a high opinion of her. Garden Spells was actually the first book of hers I read and I honestly didn’t care for it, but after going on to read all of her works and loving each and every one of them, I knew I had to revisit this and give it another shot through a different set of eyes. The second time around went much better and I enjoyed it greatly. Why the change? I remember the first time I kept comparing it to the movie/book Practical Magic without bothering to note the differences plus it was my first foray into magical realism so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. (I also read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake around the same time and disliked it greatly so I’m thinking a re-read of that may be in order.) This is the first time I’ve gone back attempting to give a book I disliked another shot. In my mind, it always seems like a waste of time because if you disliked it the first time, why would it be different the second time? Well, if I take anything from this experience it’s that it won’t be the last time.