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, 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 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.
I happened to come across this book at my university's annual used book sale a few weeks ago, and I couldn't resist the magical description of the plot! Sarah Addison Allen's novel, Garden Spells, definitely lived up to its description as a bewitching read, for I soon became highly engrossed by the whimsical characters and enchanting storyline. In many ways this novel really reminded me of Practical Magic, as it focused on the lives of two sisters with magical abilities, who struggle to accept their powers and become accepted members of their community.
What I really enjoyed about this book was the fact that Allen did not just create a pair of magical sisters, but an entire town with various unique abilities. For example, the girls in one family are always destined to marry wealthy men, and the men in another family are predestined to always end up marrying an older woman. This use of family myth and fate allowed for a slew of quirky and fascinating characters with intricate backgrounds and personalities.
While I quickly devoured Garden Spells over a couple of days, I was nevertheless somewhat disappointed by the ending. The novel seemed to wrap up way too quickly for my liking, and I was left wanting more. For example, although the love plots were developing really well throughout the story, any complications were immediately eliminated to make room for a happy ending. Despite the ending, Garden Spells is still a fun, magical read to be swept away in!
Rating: 3.5 Stars