Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jenn's Review: Garden Spells


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….

I was truly enchanted with this novel. Sarah Addison Allen has an uncomplicated style of prose that is soothing to read and has a definite flow about it. Her story not only encompasses the Waverlys, but also delves into the lives of the townspeople with whom they interact. Often times, this can be dull, but Allen has written a story in which the past is so rooted in the present and entwined with the main characters, that the forays are delightful. Each Waverly has her own brand of magic which has varying effects the town as well as herself; and each of them stuggle to come to terms with their role in their family and in each other's lives.

The book is not without flaw, but as it is Allen's first book, that is to be expected. I would have loved to have learned more about the apple tree, the rest of the family, or even fleshed out the ending a little bit. However, it has a tone that is reminiscent of my favorite book of all times, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. If you enjoy fantasy and romance, this is a light and tender read for you!

Overall Rating 4.7/5.0


Julie October 11, 2007 at 9:50 AM  

When I purchased this at Barnes and Noble the lady referred to is as a "Can't put it down" book.

It'll be read by me in a few weeks.

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