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Waverley Family #1

Garden Spells

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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….

304 pages, Hardcover

First published August 28, 2007

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About the author

Sarah Addison Allen

39 books16.3k followers
New York Times Bestselling novelist Sarah Addison Allen brings the full flavor of her southern upbringing to bear on her fiction -- a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town sensibility.

Born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Allen grew up with a love of books and an appreciation of good food (she credits her journalist father for the former and her mother, a fabulous cook, for the latter). In college, she majored in literature -- because, as she puts it, "I thought it was amazing that I could get a diploma just for reading fiction. It was like being able to major in eating chocolate."

After graduation, Allen began writing seriously. Her big break occurred in 2007 with the publication of her first mainstream novel, Garden Spells, a modern-day fairy tale about an enchanted apple tree and the family of North Carolina women who tend it. Booklist called Allen's accomplished debut "spellbindingly charming." The novel became a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection, and then a New York Times Bestseller.

Allen continues to serve heaping helpings of the fantastic and the familiar in fiction she describes as "Southern-fried magic realism." Clearly, it's a recipe readers are happy to eat up as fast as she can dish it out.

Her published books to date are: Garden Spells (2007), The Sugar Queen (2008), The Girl Who Chased the Moon (2010), The Peach Keeper (2011), Lost Lake (2014), First Frost (2015) and Other Birds (August 30, 2022).

--From B&N.com

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5 stars
35,837 (37%)
4 stars
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,017 reviews
Profile Image for Sara Madden.
30 reviews · 79 followers
June 14, 2008
Chicken soup when you're sick. Chocolate when you're hormonal. Lavender for your bathroom. Citrus for the kitchen. Pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Peppermint at Christmas time.

This book completely spoke my language - that of food and how we are connected to what we serve, eat and order. We may not be able to put magic into our cooking, but as a mother I know there are certain things to feed my family for certain reasons, and that can be sort of a form of magic (at least to the little child in bed waiting for hot cocoa after being caught in a rain storm).

Garden Spells is beautiful. Each character of the family has a special gift. Either through food, hairstyling, knowing where things go or giving gifts that will be needed in the future, they are all important gifts, but to the characters, sometimes a curse. But, in the end, they all figure out how to deal with their gifts and how to come together as a family.

Then of course, there is the apple tree that will show you your future that is in their backyard. Would I be willing to take a bite of the apple and be prepared for what I saw or should I go through life, accepting each action and moment as it comes?
Profile Image for Grace.
246 reviews · 155 followers
April 15, 2008
Yes, this book is definitely reminsicent of Practical Magic in plotline. I can't imagine anyone not thinking so...a beautiful old house, two magical sisters whose mother died when they were young, one practical and a homebody, the other a wild woman with a daughter who comes back home to escape an abusive man. Um...sounds familiar. Very.


The author creates an amazing atmosphere, and the basics of the plot may be the same, but the details are entirely new and lovely. The aunt Evanelle is an absolutely fascinating character...not to mention the wonderful apple tree who wants to share in all the experiences. I stayed up late to finish reading this book, and I don't do that often.

Practical Magic had undertones of darkness and spices, mystery and tragedy. Garden Spells instead makes magic beautifully mundane...a part of these women's everyday life, and just as difficult but worth dealing with than the marital problems of Emma and her husband.

Very highly recommended...the best book I've read in a long time.
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
7 books · 54.8k followers
November 19, 2020
I'm having fun going back and adding reviews for books I read and enjoyed in the past. Consider this review to be inspired by my enthusiasm for the rumored (promised?) new Sarah Addison title coming in 2021.

I've enjoyed revisiting this favorite several times over the years, including when we all read it together in the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club. This is the book that hooked me on Sarah Addison Allen's writing and it was our flight selection to accompany the newer release Harry's Trees.

What to say about this book? The romance is a little cheesy, the magic impossible, but put them together and it sings. A few love scenes are a little racy (ahem). If you're not down with supernatural food or a magical apple tree, skip this one—but you should know how many readers call this "a wonderful surprise."

Sweet, sparkly, and thoroughly Southern.
Profile Image for Kristin (KC).
251 reviews · 25.1k followers
October 11, 2014
*3.5 Stars*

I’ll keep this review short, and—in the spirit of this adorable story—sweet.

Garden Spells offered the perfect magical escape I was searching for. The writing was exquisite and the plot—enchanting. This book did sort of feel like a cross between Practical Magic and Sleeping with the Enemy, as many readers have mentioned, but it certainly offered a unique enough spin in its storytelling.

The element of magic was handled with care and executed to perfection: not too far-out there, but solid enough to whisk the reader outside of reality for a while.

Although I found the plot fairly predictable, the romance was sweet and gentle and the fact that I knew where the story was heading didn't seem to dampen my enjoyment. The lack of angst was refreshing and a nice change from my current string of tension-filled reads.

Recommended for readers in search of a light read who also enjoy a bit of magic in their fiction.

Profile Image for Beverly.
806 reviews · 291 followers
September 3, 2018
Garden spells is fun, it reminded me of Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman though. Both include two sisters who are descendents of a weird, magical family, which is ostracized by the small town's folks that they live next to. Also similar to Practical Magic is the violence in one sister's past that she is trying to get away from. Magical realism isn't usually a genre that I enjoy, but it seems to work well here. My book group at the library chose this, but I am glad I gave it a try.
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews · 769 followers
June 11, 2016
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

For generations, the Waverly family has made their home in Bascom, North Carolina. Each of the Waverly women possesses a unique magic which has made them a curiosity in the town, but their oddness also keeps others at a distance. Claire is a caterer who uses the enchanted herbs and flowers in her garden to prepare exquisite dishes that affect the eater's feelings. Claire’s aunt, Evanelle, gives odd and random gifts that she knows the recipient will need in the future. Her younger sister, Sydney, has a knack for creating just the right hairstyles for her clients. Even Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has a special talent for knowing just where something (or someone) belongs.

The fun starts when Sydney flees with her daughter from an abusive man and returns to the home she abandoned. Claire’s quiet life is suddenly thrown in turmoil, and both sisters are forced to deal with their past. Claire gradually succumbs to the charms of the man next door, and Sydney finds love with a childhood friend.

Garden Spells was a light, pleasant, and enchanting romance that was just a little too sweet, sentimental, and predictable for me. The men are too good to be true, the villains are stereotypes, and there’s very little conflict.

I loved the big and cantankerous apple tree with a mind of its own that throws apples at unsuspecting victims.

Not my cup of tea, but should please those readers who like magic, love, and happy endings.
Profile Image for Darth J .
417 reviews · 1,252 followers
February 11, 2015
So good, I read it twice. There is a great sense of place for this book, the imagery is truly enchanting and visceral. What I really like about the novel is how grounded in reality it is, making the magic seem entirely plausible in its subtlety. The pain and drama of the characters make them three dimensional and completely relatable.

I was left with only two questions:
1. Is there a sequel to this?
2. If not, why the hell isn't there?!

ETA February 2015: There is a sequel! Special thanks to Christina to alerting me to this :D
Profile Image for ♛Tash.
223 reviews · 211 followers
September 8, 2015
3.5 Stars

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The Waverleys of Bascom, North Carolina have always been considered strange by their neighbors, what with Claire’s skill in whipping up delectable dishes from flowers with magical attributes, Evanelle’s sudden compulsion to give mundane presents that eventually become useful in the near future, and Claire’s uncanny ability to choose the hairstyle apropos for the person’s situation. A decade ago, Sydney ran as far away as she can from Bascom, while Claire stayed home to carry on the family legacy, but when Sydney returns to Bascom to lie low for a while, it will be up to Claire to show Sydney what it means to be finally home as a Waverley.

“It was like the way you wanted sunshine on Saturdays, or pancakes for breakfast. They just made you feel good.”

Perfectly sums up the way I feel about Garden Spells. Fun and easy to read, this novel thawed my ice box of a heart with its quirky main and secondary characters, scrumptious dishes made from flowers I haven’t heard of before, postcard worthy setting, poignant rendering of forgiveness and acceptance, with just the right touch of magic realism.

I particularly like the dynamics between Claire and Sydney after meeting for the first time in ten years. They’re extremely dissimilar, yet drawn to each other as well, which makes their interaction painfully guarded. If you have an errant sibling whom you see infrequently, you’ll know what I mean.

There are two things, though, that could’ve been better - the romance and the ending. I found the romance a tad too cheesy for my taste, but that's just me I guess. Not your fault book, I just have a low tolerance for romance nowadays. Another is the predictable ending.

Overall though, an enjoyable light read, as is usual for Sarah Addison Allen books. Her books are my mint sorbet, my palate cleanser, when I’m in between weightier or frustrating reads, or to recover from a book slump. And that says a lot about Sarah Addison Allen's writing.
Profile Image for Erin.
769 reviews · 30 followers
December 7, 2007
What I learned from this book is...if an apple tree throws its apples at you, for goodness sake, pay attention already!

This book is lovely, magical, enchanting. I sat down to read just one chapter, basically to decide whether it was worth holding onto even though it was already overdue. At 2:30 a.m. I finished the whole darn thing. Couldn't stop myself. I floated in a state of suspended reality, where time had no meaning.

The basic idea of the book: two sisters experienced their childhoods very differently. Now, as adults, they must come to terms with choices, past and present, and with the unique abilities each woman inherited. In Bascom, North Carolina, townsfolk know Claire's garden grows produce with mystical properties, like the honeysuckle wine she makes that lets you see in the dark. Sydney has a gift for revealing a person's inner self through a haircut. Bay always knows where things belong. And whatever Evanelle gives you, no matter how strange, you'll be certain to need before too long.
Profile Image for Dorlana.
13 books · 298 followers
April 22, 2008
It is really difficult for me to find a book that suits me. I love stories, and I love to read. Since I don’t have a lot of time to read, I have to be really picky. Which means, if it hasn’t grabbed my attention early on, I normally don’t continue.

When I saw Garden Spells on the shelves in the book store I immediately wanted to read it because of the cover, the title and the blurb. I knew for sure that this was a book that I had to read.

I was so excited when I sat down and opened the book. Perhaps it was the high hopes and expectations I had put on this novel, but I was ready to toss it after the first chapter. I complained to my husband and cursed the book, “Stupid book.” But then, I did something uncharacteristic of me (with books); I gave it another chance.

I read on, even struggling a bit with the second chapter. Funny thing, I had been right to judge it by its cover, title and blurb, because by the end I had really grown to love the magical world Sarah Addison Allen had created. Garden Spells is a fairy tale of sorts with an enchanted apple tree, envy, edible spells, love and a happy ending. It turned out to be everything that I had hoped it would be. And I learned that you can’t judge a book by its first chapter. (Does three sound fair?)
Profile Image for Carmyn.
385 reviews · 39 followers
July 9, 2009
Set in North Carolina, we explore the lives of the Waverly women and their strangeness in a community where everyone has their expectations for the long family lines native to the area. The Waverley's have a garden where an enchanted apple tree grows and Claire masterfully creates foods with properties that do more than tantalize the taste buds. The ideas behind this are great and this first novel for Sarah Addison Allen might be a fun summer read for someone less picky than me. While I enjoyed the IDEAS Allen was trying to carry out in the novel and the lovely cover art, I found it predictable and contrived, repetitive and far too much like a heaving breasts romance novel at times. I really didn't care for her style of writing.
Profile Image for Melissa (Catch Up Mode).
4,569 reviews · 1,876 followers
June 20, 2019
I put off reading this book for a long time because I'm just not that into magic/fantasy. But I discovered that I actually adore magical realism. This is a fantastic book with amazing characters.
Profile Image for Siobhan.
18 reviews
March 8, 2008
This book is completely twee and unoriginal, and I am a little embarrassed to be reading it. It's the literary equivalent of eating a whole box of cookies -- but not even good cookies, more like Snackwell's. Mediocre and unsatisfying.

(And yet I am reading it anyway.)

Now that I've finished it, I can say definitively that the barrage of five-star reviews for this book kind of makes me lose my faith in humanity. Even if you like this kind of writing, it is so clearly a wholesale ripoff of "Practical Magic" (not exactly a literary classic to start with) that I am astonished anyone was willing to publish it.

I'm going to just go ahead and forget that any of this ever happened.
Profile Image for Brina.
902 reviews · 4 followers
October 13, 2020
I keep staring at Magic Lessons on my book shelf. I am so excited to read it, but it is a book club choice for next month, and I know myself: I will read the whole book in a day and then struggle to keep my mouth shut with all the spoilers I have. In need of other witchy books to tide me over until then, I came up with a list of books that are full of magical realism that I enjoy but not too spooky. While others crave spooky and scary books during October, my runaway imagination does not allow me to read anything that features vampires, monsters, or other things that go bump in the night. Dystopia, forget it. Stephen King that isn’t about his love of baseball, no way. Good witches, on the other hand, give me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. As I wait to read the latest installment of the Owens family saga, a friend suggested I read a series featuring the Waverley family of Bascom, North Carolina. The Waverleys are witchy enough to be part of my “not spooky and still chock full of magical” October.

The Waverley family of Bascom has been viewed as odd for generations. Most of the town knows to stay away from Waverley women because when they are around, strange things happen. This stems from the apple tree planted in their garden and the herbs and flowers that go into the Waverleys’ recipes. Each woman has a special gift, and, although they are labeled as witches outright, the women have utilized their talents to excel in society, much to the chagrin of other people in town. Evanelle Franklin, the current matriarch of the family, knows to give people gifts in anticipation of life changing events. Bascom views Evanelle as eccentric, yet no one can deny that her gifts do indeed forecast the future. She just knows, and she utilizes this wisdom to pass the knowledge of witchcraft down to her great nieces Claire and Sydney Waverley. Even if a Waverley woman tries to deny that she is magical, her gift eventually appears. One thing is clear though: do not tamper with the apple tree in the garden. It’s fruits know things that most human minds do not.

Bascom is a charming southern town located near Asheville and Hickory, North Carolina. It is one of these small towns full of quirky characters, yet the type that is a slice of Americana, a town that I enjoy reading about. While Bascom as a whole shuns the Waverleys, each family harbors their own secrets. The Clarks have been wealthy for a century, getting their way through sexual prowess. No one is snottier in this story than Ariel Clark, and the scenes featuring her made me want to scream in frustration. The Mattesons are known for honest, hard work, and Hopkins men marry older women. All of these families make up the fabric of a town that is home to Orion College, a lumberyard, dairies, and small businesses. One thing is clear: the Clarks and Waverleys have feuded for a century, and generations of Clarks have perpetuated the belief that the Waverleys are no good. Newcomers to Bascom would have to formulate their own opinions; however, because who could not help but love a gifted cook or hair dresser or a little girl who knows where things belong and makes one’s heart melt.

Garden Spells was Sarah Addison Allen’s first book. She inserted enough magical realism into her story to make it full of magical occurrences in ordinary life yet few enough to keep the story light and a bit cliched. Claire Waverley is thirty four and afraid of being in a relationship due to her family’s history. The next door neighbor, a newcomer named Tyler Hughes, falls for her, and, of course, Claire does not budge. Her sister Sydney arrives in town with daughter Bay in tow, settling in her family’s home that she once ran away from. It takes extroverted Sydney to get Claire out of her shell, and, as in most families, the sisters here are complete opposites. Perhaps it is because this is a debut, but the story and its twists ended up having obvious results, making the Waverley’s tale light and a little too cliched for my liking. Allen’s writing has been lauded as quality magical realism. That aspect of the novel is spot on, but the writing as a whole as well of the story, could use some polishing that I hope comes along in later books. As the Waverley story is intriguing enough to pique my interest, I would like to revisit them as long as the writing improves with time.

As a mood reader, I try not to read themes for an entire month as I find the stories spill into each other and become trite. There is something about witches and magical realism that has a hold on me from the opening pages of a story. Supernatural events that occur in real life and make an otherwise normal existence into a magical one have long lead to magical realism being my favorite genre. Whether it’s butter melting to signify love, flowers in recipes to stimulate emotions, or an apple tree that portends the future, Garden Spells is chock full of magical realism. While not at the level of the Owens family- I don’t think anything ever will be- the Waverley’s story has held my interest to last me through this magical month.

🍎 3.5 stars 🧙‍♀️ 💐 🍏
Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,735 reviews · 939 followers
September 12, 2022
Updated review: September 12, 2022

I really enjoyed this re-read. I didn't love the second book in the series as much, but this first one still gives me all the feels. Allen does such a great job of depicting the two sisters and I loved all of the people who lived in Bascom and the "gifts" so many had. 

Original review:
Funny, I love this book, but honestly don't remember the last time I read it. After finishing "Garden Spells" I went and read book two in the Waverley family again so that was a nice and and two punch. Allen does magical realism very well. This book deals with a lot of serious issues, rape, abuse, bullying, and the eccentricities of a small but unusual southern town in North Carolina.

"Garden Spells" reunites estranged sisters, Claire and Sydney Waverley. Claire is single and alone making a go of her special catering business in Bascom, North Carolina. She has her whole world turned upside down when she meets a man, Tyler Hughes, who despite her best efforts is interested in her.

Sydney has left her abusive partner and taken her daughter Bay back home to Bascom. She has hated Bascom since she left it and never wanted to be one of the strange Waverley's. All she wanted to do was fit in. Still nursing heartbreak over the first boy she ever loved (and lost) Sydney starts to finally embrace being a Waverley.

The book focuses not just on Claire and Sydney though. We also have Allen including other characters as well, we follow Claire and Sydney's cousin Evanelle, Sydney's daughter Bay, an old friend (not really friend) of Sydney's, and even Tyler and a potential love interest for Sydney. Allen manages to juggle everyone and keep the plot moving forward. I didn't feel lost about who people were and how they were connected. We also got delicious little comments about which each family is famous for in this book and that was pretty cute.

The writing is magical realism at it's best. Allen makes you feel, smell, and even taste things. If you do things right, you can make the magical elements seem totally natural and Allen does. We hear about the Waverley family home, apple tree, and even how Claire's emotions affect things like having fog in the neighborhood.

The flow was very good and the setting of Bascom felt very real.

Great first book in the series.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews · 2,654 followers
February 23, 2015
Sometimes you just want to read a book with a happy ending. This is not a novel I would recommend to others, and yet, I enjoyed its sweetness.

"Garden Spells" is the story of Claire and Sydney Waverley, two estranged sisters in Bascom, North Carolina. Claire is a gifted caterer who knows how to create special dishes, and she is surprised when Sydney and her daughter, Bay, suddenly show up on her doorstep needing a place to stay. Sydney's arrival stirs up some drama among her former friends, and Claire is finally forced to deal with some old family issues.

Like other Sarah Addison Allen novels, there is romance and magic. Each Waverley woman has a special gift, even if they don't know it yet. And they have an enchanted garden of herbs and flowers and fruit, which Claire uses to enhance her cooking.

I must have been in the right mood when I read "Garden Spells," because even though the story was silly, I wanted to keep reading about those women. I have read Allen's other novels, but was pushed to finally pick up this first one because a sequel about the Waverleys was just published ("First Frost").

While I didn't enjoy "First Frost" as much, I was content to spend this time in the Waverley's garden.

My rating: 2 1/2 stars rounded up to 3
795 reviews · 4 followers
September 11, 2007
Fascinating premise, ineptly implemented.

The author is a graduate of the Octavia Butler/Rosie Lyons School of Literature which features victims instead of protagonists.

Shamelessly manipulative.

The family of witches in a magic garden is a great setting for a novel. It is pathetic that the author could not do any better than this.
Profile Image for Susan's Reviews.
1,077 reviews · 489 followers
May 18, 2022
My thanks to GR friend, Terrie, for alerting me to this wonderful writer of magical realism. Alice Hoffman made me a fan of magical realism, but Sarah Addison Allen has undoubtedly perfected this genre.

Addison Allen's world is filled with wonderful characters with inner turmoils that you can fully relate to. Many of us bookish people tend to shelter in place when the going gets tough: we retreat from the heartaches and humiliations of life in the real world and feel safer reading about a fictional character's misadventures instead.

Claire's ostrich routine reminded me that we miss out on so much when we avoid all risk of being hurt.

Words like regret and courage and heartache are used often in this entrancingly written story about two sisters who suffered as a result of choices made for and by them.

At some point, as we see here in this story, we have to stop worrying about what SHOULD BE and take the risk, make the choices that set us on the path of what we would LIKE our life to be, regardless of whether we succeed. We just might find that what we do end up with was worth all the strife and discomfort!

I'm on the way to the library to pick up the sequel to this one - First Frost! Can't wait to continue the Waverly family saga!
Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Karla.
279 reviews · 98 followers
May 7, 2010
Sometimes you just need a good enchanting fantasy with humor, heart and charming loveable characters. I enjoyed the differnt points of view and the revealing look into their personal jouney for love, strength and fulfillment. It captured everyday loss, pain, and personal growth and twisted in the perfect touch of whimsy.
There is a unique magical apple tree that grows in the Waverly's back garden and each Waverly woman or girl has an special gift to share with the little town of Bascom, North Carolina. They sometimes come across as oddities to this town but are wonderful ladies.
Generations of Waverly women protect and look over this rascal of an apple tree with a wild little soul that loves this family and throws apples at random to have its say in there lives. If eaten it reveals secret visions of the most memorable moment that takes place in an eaters life. You just never know what the apple's hidden secret well make known, good or bad so DON'T EAT THE APPLES!! I couldn't help but think of Adam and Eve a little with the whole apple idea.
A mystical garden grows around the tree and has gifts of it's own to share that casts little spells over anyone that eats from it also. But it makes you yearn to smell the honeysuckle and lay amongst the pansies on a clear dewy morning. I would love to eat the delectables Clarie spins this peculiar magic into, her fresh edible flower recipes sound lush and delicious. I found this as a pleasure to read and always had an edge of excitement waiting to happen. I like how it all wrapped up and made me feel good.

Favorite quote ~When you're happy for yourself, it fills you. When you're happy for someone else, it pours over.
Profile Image for Sarah.
740 reviews · 38 followers
January 31, 2019
I've written this review for Really Into This

Check out all of our reviews at https://reallyintothis.com
Happy Reading, friends!

Oh my goodness, this book was so enjoyable. I just love the premise. A tragic family history, a psychic cousin, a sister coming home to escape her abusive marriage & unrequited love. I can’t believe I waited so long to pick this up.

As a Texas girl at heart, these Southern characters & their mannerisms are so familiar to me. I really connected to Evanelle, the cousin who always seems to know the right thing to do. The Waverleys share a long family history in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina. The author shares the family’s secrets, love triangles & throw in a magic apple tree & I was hooked. This story was so fun, I can’t believe someone wouldn’t enjoy it. This book was an enchanting combination of Chocolat, Practical Magic with a sprinkling of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. The best part is, there’s a sequel! First Frost picks up the same characters & I’m really looking forward to reading it soon.

Friends, what other books have I been missing out on?
Profile Image for Amanda.
282 reviews · 315 followers
June 26, 2013
In Bascom, North Carolina, everyone is destined to live up to their family name. Clark women are lascivious femme fatales, Mattesons will be wealthy and put family duty first, Hopkins men always marry older women, and the females of the Waverley clan always manifest a quaint magical talent. Fate is heavy-handed in Bascom. There's no escaping your name and there's no escaping your heritage, even though Sydney Waverley, just like her mother before her, has tried.

Sydney grew up a Waverley, but didn't embrace the stigma associated with her name in the way her sister, Claire, did. Sydney's been everywhere, man, but her free spirit has finally been trapped by an abusive husband and her commitment to her 5 year old daughter. When Sydney finally musters the courage to escape, there's only one place for her to go--back to Bascom and a sister who despises her. When Sydney returns, she must confront the past, mend her relationship with Claire, and embrace what it means to be a Waverley--all the while knowing that trouble is most likely following her and could threaten the very lives of those she loves the most.

Garden Spells is a nice little book. Just awfully darn nice. Everything's beautiful and brimming with Southern charm, the characters could have been pulled off the street in Mayberry and sprinkled with pixie dust, and we know there's a happily ever after awaiting everyone. I'll give Allen credit--there were some unexpected thorns and rough edges in a plot that was as insubstantial as an angel food cake (this also means that I laughed my ass off when I read the 1 star reviews on this book to find so many readers of "wholesome" novels were disgusted and couldn't go on when the first F bomb was dropped or during the first sex scene), but it was predictable and sweet and light-reading. It was the perfect book for vacation because I didn't have to think much and I could easily pick the plot line back up after being distracted. However, that's generally not what I'm looking for in a novel, so I don't think I'll seek out any more Allen books (although I already have The Sugar Queen on my shelf--it may go with me on my next vacation, but that will probably be my last encounter with Allen's particular brand of magical realism). There were some groan-worthy moments (such as when Ariel Clark is described as smelling like "peaches and cottonwood"--wtf kind of fragrance is that? Who smells like a cottonwood?), but there were some characters who held some undeniable charm for me. The most interesting character, unfortunately, wasn't a main character (I found the Waverley sisters to be rather tiresome). It is Evanelle, an elderly relative of the Waverley sisters, whom I found the most interesting. Evanelle's peculiar talent manifests itself as a compulsive need to give things to people--specific things which always turn out to have a purpose, though Evanelle never knows what that purpose is when giving (at one point she is overwhelmed by the need to give a woman a box of condoms, even though the woman's husband was left impotent after a WWII injury; however, she has been having an affair and ends up pregnant because she doesn't accept Evanelle's gift). The chain of events that occur after Evanelle presents a gift to someone are often the best stories in the novel.

Many of the other reviews have compared this novel to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, another magical realism book about two polar opposite sisters from a magical family, and some other readers have gone so far as to suggest that Allen has plagiarized Hoffman. I don't think that's quite the case, but the similarities are hard to ignore. However, I enjoyed Practical Magic immensely because there is an undertone of darkness and menace, which Garden Spells lacks. Also, Hoffman includes a little more magical realism while the magic in Allen's book is pretty light. In fact, Allen might be best labeled as "Hoffman-Lite." And that's why I think I'll stick with Hoffman from this point on.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
Profile Image for Anastacia Reads Stuff.
65 reviews · 89 followers
August 15, 2021
As a florist and fellow garden enthusiast this book gave me everything I wanted. I loved all the tidbits about plant varieties and alternate uses for them when cooking. I enjoyed the character development of the sisters and grew to really enjoy both of their varying personalities. You get a little bit of everything. Love, loss, family drama, magic. Trigger warning for domestic abuse and abandonment.

This brings some magical realism to the table but not too much. It reminded me of Practical Magic.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story.
Profile Image for Armina.
176 reviews · 96 followers
April 17, 2015


"Take one man, one foolish woman, put them in a bowl and stir."

I loved this! Some kind of review to come in a few days after I catch up with everything GR I've missed for the last 5 days while I was not around.
667 reviews · 112 followers
June 16, 2020
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a story well told with strong and (mostly) likeable characters.

I was mesmerized throughout the whole story...

I will definitely will continue to read more from this author.
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,726 reviews · 1,278 followers
January 16, 2015
“She was a Waverley, and Waverley’s were an odd bunch, each in his or her own way.”

This is the second time I’ve read this book and I really enjoyed it, I loved the magic, the quirks, and the ending was just so sweet!

I really liked the characters in this book, and I loved how the Waverley’s all had their own special gift, whether it be cooking or something more obtuse. I loved Evanelle’s gift most though, randomly having to give things to people! Even embarrassing things! But I just loved her, because she honestly couldn’t help it, and her gifts really did come in useful for the people she had to give them to!

“She gave me a ball of yarn once,” Henry said. “I was probably fourteen and we were on a school field trip downtown. I was so embarrassed. I threw it away. But the very next week I needed it when I was working on a school project.”
“Men in this town learn their lesson young when it comes to Waverley women,” Lester said, reaching for the cane he’d rested against the tree. He slowly stood. “Whenever there’s one around, sit up and pay attention.”

The storyline in this was good, and it was nice that Claire and Sydney found each other again. I loved the magic in this book, and the apple tree who liked to throw apples at people!

“Stop it,” she kept saying as the tree dropped apples around her, trying to vex her. “The more you drop, the more I bury. And you know it takes you a week to grow more.”
It dropped a small apple on her head.
She looked up at the branches, which were twitching slightly though there was no wind. “I said stop it.”

I loved Claire’s gift with food, and the marvellous creations she came up with, and the way everyone in town appreciated her for it, even if they didn’t know her well personally.

“She put his plate in front of him, the piece of cake was perfect and moist, the crystallized violets spilling over it like frosted jewels. It screamed, Look at me! But his eyes were on her.”

There was romance in this book, and it was quite subtle but romantic, and it really did seem like the girls in this book didn’t even realise what was right in front of their noses! It was so nice when things worked out though.

Sydney couldn’t quite get her mind around it. “What are you saying, Henry?”
“I’m saying I don’t want to be set up with your friend Amber.”
The dynamic changed in a flash. She was no longer sitting beside young Henry.
She was sitting beside the man in love with her.

The ending to this was great, and so sweet, and I was so glad that everything worked out okay for these girls! Really looking forward to reading book 2 now.

7.5 out of 10

"Everything was going to be okay now.
Perfect, in fact."

Profile Image for Heather Ormsby.
28 books · 12 followers
February 14, 2008
Well, this is tricky. I really enjoyed the book. I enjoyed it the first time I read it when it was called "Practical Magic" by Alice Hoffman. Was it plagiarism? I'm not sure - that's for Hoffman's lawyers to decide, but if you enjoyed the following things about Hoffman's book, then you'll enjoy this one:
- a lovely garden where the plants grow in an atmosphere of magical realism, out of time and season.
- two sisters who seem polar opposites, who suffered the loss of their mother at a young age and are separated for years after a difficult childhood together.
- a small town where the quirky, magical gifts of the sisters' family are both scorned and sought out - making it difficult for anyone from the family to live a normal life.
- the younger sister comes back to the family home after leaving a desperate, violent relationship - which follows her there for a climatic ending.
- a daughter of one of the sisters with her own gifts and a maturity seeming beyond her years - wiser than her mother or aunt and who can't understand why they don't "see" what she sees.
- The older sister who is reserved and rigid from her life experiences, finds love despite her fighting against it.
Profile Image for Rosie.
323 reviews · 37 followers
February 26, 2023
** 3,5 estrelas**

Este é um livro muito agradável. Comprei-o pela minha filha, apesar de ter lido o resumo e desaconselhado. Presumi que seria mais um romance, com pouca consistência, banal, igual a tantos outros. Contudo... surpreende, tem algo místico, diálogos com muito sentido de humor, tem magia, sensibilidade e uma cumplicidade de gerações deliciosa.

Tem a beleza e o respeito pela natureza, tem sabedoria e enredos que nos prendem e que nos instigam a ler.

Quando estiverem deprimidas e necessitem desanuviar, leiam-no.

Nota: li o segundo volume e não recomendo. Este chega por si só.
Profile Image for Nikoleta.
681 reviews · 274 followers
December 17, 2015
Ποια συνταγή περιλαμβάνει δύο αδερφές, που η μια δεν ανήκει πουθενά, ενώ η άλλη έχει ριζώσει σταθερά σε ένα μέρος; Τι γεύση παίρνει αυτή η συνταγή όταν προστίθενται σε αυτήν μια γριά που μοιράζει απρόσμενα δώρα, ένας άβουλος gay, 2 ερωτοχτυπημένοι νέοι και ένα μικρό κορίτσι που ξέρει τον προορισμό του κάθε αντικειμένου έμψυχου ή μη; Προσθέστε και πολλά πολλά μαγικά μήλα από μια πανέξυπνη, επιθετική μηλιά και voilà, έτοιμη η συνταγή. Ένα ανάλαφρο, φρέσκο ανάγνωσμα που σε παρασύρει σε έναν κόσμο, ο οποίος μπορεί να είναι κάλλιστα μέρος της γειτονιάς σου, αν δεν τον περίκλειε μια πρέζα μαγείας. Την ατμόσφαιρα εντείνει η ικανότητα της συγγραφέως να περιλούζει τον αναγνώστη με ένα περίτεχνο όργιο εικόνων και αισθήσεων μέσα από υπέροχες μεταφορές, τις οποίες σιγοντάρει η άριστη μετάφραση της Μαρίας Αγγελίδου. Ο μαγικός κήπος είναι ένα σύγχρονο παραμύθι, το οποίο χρησιμοποιεί το παραδοσιακό παραμυθιακό μοτίβο των «μαγικών αντικειμένων», για να θίξει τις σχέσεις των ανθρώπων, κ την τόλμη που χρειάζεται για να γίνει αυτή η 'βουτιά' στα βαθιά, που τελικά, καμία φορά είναι απαραίτητη, για να ζήσεις πραγματικά και όχι απλά να αναπνέεις...
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,340 reviews · 699 followers
March 9, 2015
I have found a new favorite beach-reach author! I’m not sure how Sarah Addison Allen has escaped my attention.

Garden Spells is true book candy. It’s a story about the Waverley ladies, who are known for eccentric behavior and magical talents. Often misunderstood, these ladies are part of the town’s mythology. Addison Allen develops each woman’s character so well you want her as your BFF, quirks, faults and all. It’s almost like an adult fairy tale: enchanting, scary, and comforting. Oh, and there is a magical apple tree along with an enchanting garden.

I highly recommend it if you want to escape reality with a warm and fuzzy fairy tale.
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