Thursday, September 22, 2011

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

book jacketReview by Jan:

Garden Spells came highly recommended to me by one of our NYOBG members.  I was compelled to pick this book up simply because of her recommendation, but I must confess what finally motivated me was the awesomely low page count of 286!  :o)  I was in the mood for a short, light read--but what I received was something so much more.  From the moment I started the first page I literally could not put it down until I read the very last amazing word, and consequently went to work the following morning yawning with a very large coffee in hand to get me through the day.  So, while this is a shorter book, the content is filled with some of the most beautifully written characters I have read in a very long time.

What touched me the most about this book was the relationship journey between four Waverly women: two sisters, a distant cousin, and a five-year-old daughter.  It is set in a quirky southern community, with some magic realism thrown in.  Each Waverly woman is born with a "gift."  Evanelle, the distant cousin, described as "79 but looks like 120", is compelled to give people items like a lighter, or bed sheets, or a mango peeler.   Every item she gives will have a significant meaning in the receiver's life.  Claire runs a catering business while using herbs from the Waverly garden to weave a magical evening for her clients through her menu.  Sydney has a gift for making people look good, and her daughter, Bay, knows where things belong.

Claire has always accepted her gift, unashamed of being one of the "odd" Waverly women, while Sydney hated the distinction and left town as soon as she was old enough.   Now Sydney is running from an horrifically abusive boyfriend, knowing he will eventually harm their daughter, and returns home to the only safe place she knows.  Although this is a secondary story line, there is a charming love story involving Claire and her neighbor.  There is also a mischievous apple tree who (and I will say who because it has emotions) throws apples at people.  If a person eats an apple from the Waverly tree, they will see the most important event of their life, which isn't necessarily a good thing.  So, the Waverly women are always burying the apples.

I cannot rave enough about this book!  There isn't a character or line I would change.   There were moments when the author wrote in Bay's perspective, the young daughter, that were simply beautiful, although heart-wrenching.  I was thoroughly touched by this book.

Garden Spells is officially on my top ten favorite reads of the year.  It was that perfect!

Hope to see you in our library someday soon,

Request Garden Spells from the Bangor Public Library


  1. I think my favorite character in this little book is the Tree! It's character development is so subtle, and yet so richly done, that it left me thinking about it long after I finally put the book down.

    The magical elements are also done so subtly that they could almost be called talents instead of magic - a perfect read even for those not into the fantasy genre as a whole, as it is not overwhelming nor does it require a complete suspension of reality in order to enjoy it.

    Overall, a fantastic choice for this month's read - I can't wait to discuss it at the meeting this week!

  2. I loved the tree as well, especially the scene where it hooked a limb around the picnic table to be a part of the family outing, and it's tendency to throw apples at people it didn't like. This author did such a fantastic job at creating emotion with her characters that extended to us, the readers.

  3. I loved the tree and Bay! And Evanelle. And... Really, I loved all of them! I loved loved loved LOVED this book! I was very sad to finish it in two days. I would love to read a sequal :-)