Book Review: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Title: Garden Spells
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Genre: Magical realism, contemporary fiction
Publisher: Bantam Discovery
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my own library
First line: Every smiley moon, without fail, Claire dreamed of her childhood.

When I asked for help prioritizing my “I have to read this now” books, Garden Spells was one of the most frequently mentioned titles, and now I understand why. It is a magical book, one that is hard to categorize. It fits in “contemporary fiction,” because the characters live and breathe in today’s world – more specifically, in Bascom, North Carolina. It is also a book that has elements of magic in it – therefore I guess it qualifies as “speculative fiction” or “magical realism.” It doesn’t really matter, though – what you need to know is that it’s a wonderful read.

Claire Waverly lives in her home in Bascom, a house that used to belong to her grandmother. All of the Waverly women have magical gifts, and Claire is no exception. The plants in her garden have special powers, and she uses them to make unique recipes for her catering clients. She lives an isolated life; her only real friend is her cousin, Evanelle, also a Waverly.

Sydney Waverly left Bascom behind a long time ago. After many cities, jobs, and identities, she finds herself in Seattle with her daughter, Bay, looking for an escape from Bay’s abusive father. She heads back to the only home she’s ever known, and she and her daughter shake up her sister Claire’s safe little world.

I loved the characters in this book. Buttoned-up Claire – who is very closed and insular, in spite of her magic in the culinary arts. Sydney, who is looking for safety and a chance to start over. Evanelle, who is compelled to give people gifts that they don’t even know they need yet. Tyler, the artist who moves in next door to Claire and falls for her in a bad way. Henry, an old friend of Sydney’s who has been in love with her since they were children. And Bay, who has never understood the gift she has for always knowing where something – or someone – belongs.

The two sisters were never close; the reasons for their estrangement are deep and complicated, and it was touching to watch as they not only worked on their relationship with each other, but as each one helped the other stretch their wings and open their hearts. In spite of the fantastical elements to the story, the characters became so real to me that I missed them when the book ended. This will definitely not be the last Sarah Addison Allen book I read.

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18 Responses to Book Review: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    I sounds magical! For some reason, I keep thinking of The School of Essential Ingredients when I was reading this review. I’m going to see if I can get my hands on this one. See, this is why I don’t get anything read on my bookshelf!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Read the Book/See the Movie: Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston (audio) =-.

  2. This sounds like a wonderful book. I’m running to my libraries website right now to see f they have it!

  3. Mary
    Twitter: bookfanmb

    I think her other books are equally good – different but good. They each have a little magical realism to them. A auto-buy author for me 🙂
    .-= Mary´s last blog ..Waiting On Wednesday – April 20 =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Mary – glad to hear – I often worry when I love the first book I read by an author – can the others possibly live up?

  4. I have yet to read any of Allen’s work, but I have all of her titles on my wish list. Great review!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kathy – there are a couple authors people keep raving about that I’ve yet to pick up, for one reason or another. When I do, though, I usually find they’re raving with good reason!

  5. carol
    Twitter: carolsnotebook

    I still haven’t gotten around to this one, abut it’s seems like it’s been on my to-read list forever.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Carol – it was on mine forever, too – glad I finally found time for it. 🙂

  6. softdrink says:

    The Sugar Queen has magical books, just to tempt you further.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Jill – I am very tempted! My library has it on audio – so soon. 🙂

  7. heidenkind says:

    Yay! I’m glad you liked it. 🙂 Did I vote for this one? I’m not sure…
    .-= heidenkind´s last blog ..Hex Hall Discussion =-.

  8. Ann Flowers says:

    Thanks for sharing the book Review: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. I found it interesting. will order my copy very soon.

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