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Garden Spells

(Waverley Family #1)

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  94,661 ratings  ·  10,773 reviews
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 pecul
Hardcover, 290 pages
Published August 28th 2007 by Bantam
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  94,661 ratings  ·  10,773 reviews

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Sara Madden
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 w
Sep 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
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 abs
Anne Bogel
Nov 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Kristin (KC)
*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 so
Apr 15, 2018 rated it liked it
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. ...more
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. He
Darth J
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 Christi
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 fami
Dec 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
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. Perha
Jun 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Virginie Roy
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Third time! One of my favorites....
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 "Practica
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 m ...more
Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)
Sep 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Feb 17, 2012 rated it liked it
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 C
Sep 11, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: neverreadagain
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.
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 ni
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 Ca
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
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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 a
May 20, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: blog, meh
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


"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.
Susan's Reviews
May 18, 2022 rated it really liked it
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 fictio
Anastacia Reads Stuff
Aug 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
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
Sarah Elizabeth
“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
Heather Ormsby
Feb 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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 an
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recent-favorites
If I read a book in less than a day, I almost have to give it five stars. I love to support a North Carolina author, and this one was new to me. Now I want to read all she has written. A great story filled with well-developed characters and a bit of magic and whimsy included. Loved it!
Lisa Kay
Who would have thought I’d like a book about an apple tree with an attitude , but even it wormed its way into my heart in this charming story of two sisters.

In fact, I loved all the enchanting Waverley females: Claire and Sydney, who were never close in childhood, but are discovering the true meaning of sisterhood. Their distant cousin (“second or third or fourteenth cousin”) Evanelle, who at seventy-nine, still feels a strange compulsion to give people things she knows they will eventually n
May 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Garden Spells is the first of the two Waverley Family books, and it will leave you diving straight into the second book. Honestly, it was a truly adorable read, addictive in so many ways.

My friend won this book in a giveaway and positively adored it, thus I knew I needed to give it a read. When she read the second book and enjoyed that too, I knew that I’d be jumping into the series as soon as I had the chance.

Garden Spells is a truly immersive magical realism world. It’s one of those magical re
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
With the Bascom, Carolina setting adding that element of Southern charm, this is just a gentle feel-good story about longing for a safe place and learning to trust. Prefer when the fantasy aspect isn’t heavy-handed; that a garden would be full of mystical elements wasn’t a stretch for me at all! Allen blends in the magic with the softest touch.
It’s about the developing relationship between two entirely different sisters and there struggle to find common ground. The romance with the new men in t
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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 journa

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