By Sarah Addison Allen
Audience: Older Teens
The women of the Waverley family -- whether they like it or not -- are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.
For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business -- and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life -- upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.
This book was a reread for me. I remember loving it the first time around, and it was the same experience the second. It was so much fun to revisit these characters. I remember it being more teen-friendly, but after reading it the second time, I realized it had a lot of sex and violence in it. I think older teens would be fine with it, but boy am I glad I haven't recommended it to anyone! I don't know about everyone else, but I tend to block that stuff out and pay attention to the story. It's weird. Most people remember perfectly.
The most amazing thing about this book was the romance. A lot of love stories were going on in this book simultaneously - kind of like Love, Actually. Out of all the romances - Claire's, Fred's, and Sydney's - Claire's was definitely my favorite. It was so nice to watch her grow. My least favorite part of the book was Emma. Her obsession with Sydney was annoying to me, and I wasn't even in the relationship! No wonder her husband was frustrated with her. However, I didn't like her in a good way. She made the book more interesting and gave the romantic story a little something different. There was another character that I absolutely hated, of course, and that was David. He didn't make the book better. I was happy with the ending of this book. Fantastic.
If you love fairy tales or magical realism, you should be reading Sarah Addison Allen. If you appreciate her books but haven't gotten to this one yet, bump it up your list! It's my favorite so far. I can't wait for her future work to be released.