Debbie's Reviews > Garden Spells

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
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's review
Feb 16, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: contemporary-adult-fiction
Read in February, 2008

I made one of my departures from YA into the adult book world with Garden Spells. This is a book about place and belonging and love. It centers around the Waverley family, specifically, Waverley women. Claire was only 6 when her mother brought her to the Waverley family home in Bascom, North Carolina, where she has lived quietly ever since, but her early experiences have made her terrified of becoming close to people. Claire's younger sister, Sydney, was born in Bascom but left after high school, following in the wandering ways of their mother, whom she never knew.

The story begins when Sydney returns to Bascom with her 5-year-old daughter, Bay, to escape an abusive relationship. Claire and Sydney were not close growing up, but now that they're older, they're able to work together and appreciate each other. Their growing sisterliness is one of the highlights of the book.

There are many highlights in this book, several of them individual characters. Claire and Sydney's cousin Evanelle, who's nearly 80, has a gift for giving people things before they need them. Two sets of sheets that she gives Claire come in handy when Sydney and Bay show up on Claire's doorstep. A too-big shirt that she knew she had to give Sydney leads to Sydney finding a job. Evanelle is a delight.

While giving the right things to people is Evanelle's bit of Waverley magic, cooking is Claire's. The Waverley garden is famous for producing food that has a strong influence on people. Somewhat reminiscent of Like Water for Chocolate, the food that Claire serves in her catering business can calm a crowd or make them remember good things or induce in them an admiration of their hosts. Bay, who is a true Waverley, knows where things belong, and she knows that she and her mother belong in Bascom with Claire.

One of my favorite characters is the apple tree that is legendary in Bascom. Eating an apple from it will show you the 'biggest event in your life.' It sometimes throws apples at people when it wants them to eat one or to get their attention. If it's too rowdy, the Waverleys will yell at it to stop. It listens to Bay particularly.

I enjoyed the mixture of magic and ordinary life-ness in this book. And I'd love to see the Waverley garden.
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