Monday, November 12, 2007

Julie's Review: Garden Spells

Summary: Two gifted sisters draw on their talents to belatedly forge a bond and find their ways in life in Allen's easygoing debut novel. Thirty-four-year-old Claire Waverley manifests her talent in cooking; using edible flowers, Claire creates dishes that affect the eater in curious ways. But not all Waverley women embrace their gifts; some, including Claire's mother, escape the family's eccentric reputation by running away. She abandoned Claire and her sister when they were young. Consequently, Claire has remained close to home, unwilling to open up to new people or experiences. Claire's younger sister, Sydney, however, followed in their mother's footsteps 10 years ago and left for New York, and after a string of abusive, roustabout boyfriends, returns to Bascom, N.C., with her five-year-old daughter, Bay. As Sydney reacquaints herself with old friends and rivals, she discovers her own Waverley magic. Claire, in turn, begins to open up to her sister and in the process learns how to welcome other possibilities. Though Allen's prose can lean toward the pedestrian and the romance subplots feel perfunctory, the blending of horticultural folklore, the supernatural and a big dollop of Southern flavor should find favor with a wide swath of readers.

Review: When I was at Barnes and Noble to buy the book, the lady told me it was a "can't put it down" book. Well once I really got into it, she was right. I loved the characters and I loved the prose. Claire and Sydney Waverly couldn't be more different (aren't most sisters?) but yet they shared a common theme, they each blamed each other for what happened to them in their childhood. Their mother Lorelei left them when they were younger to live with their grandmother in Bascom and while Claire embraced her mysterious heritage; Sydney rebelled against it. Claire stayed in Bascom and created a successful catering business while Sydney ran off and explored the world but only to return to Bascom 10 years later with a young daughter in tow.

To me , the book was about fate, opening yourself up and embracing who you are. We see a good change in both Claire and Sydney. Claire learns to open herself up and Sydney learns that she has the strength she needs to be a good mother and a good person. Each Waverly women has a gift that manifests itself in different ways. While their gifts are magical, I took the message to be we all have gifts and should use them in the best way possible. While this book is set in the South, it didn't seem overly "southern" to me, other than maybe the cooking part of the book.

I know the book has been compared to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman and while they are similar they are different. Garden Spells isn't about witchcraft and a book of spells, it's about embracing yourself and your heritage. The cooking part of the book actually reminded me of a 1 star movie with Sarah Michelle Gellar called Simply Irresistable minus the magical crab.

I would definitely recommend this book and will definitely be purchasing Sarah Addison Allen's next book.

Final Take: 4.75/5


Jenn November 13, 2007 at 1:12 PM  

I'm glad you liked it too, Julie. It really is wonderfully warm and fuzzy.

tinylittlelibrarian November 18, 2007 at 1:52 AM  

I loved this one, too! And I'll definitely be on the lookout for her next one.

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