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Garden Spells (Bantam Discovery) Paperback – April 29, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Two gifted sisters draw on their talents to belatedly forge a bond and find their ways in life in Allen's easygoing debut novel. Thirty-four-year-old Claire Waverley manifests her talent in cooking; using edible flowers, Claire creates dishes that affect the eater in curious ways. But not all Waverley women embrace their gifts; some, including Claire's mother, escape the family's eccentric reputation by running away. She abandoned Claire and her sister when they were young. Consequently, Claire has remained close to home, unwilling to open up to new people or experiences. Claire's younger sister, Sydney, however, followed in their mother's footsteps 10 years ago and left for New York, and after a string of abusive, roustabout boyfriends, returns to Bascom, N.C., with her five-year-old daughter, Bay. As Sydney reacquaints herself with old friends and rivals, she discovers her own Waverley magic. Claire, in turn, begins to open up to her sister and in the process learns how to welcome other possibilities. Though Allen's prose can lean toward the pedestrian and the romance subplots feel perfunctory, the blending of horticultural folklore, the supernatural and a big dollop of Southern flavor should find favor with a wide swath of readers. (Aug.)
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*Starred Review* Take a pinch of marigold to stimulate affection, add a dash of snapdragon to repel evil influences, finish with a generous helping of rose petals to encourage love, then stand back and let nature take its course. It may be the recipe for Claire Waverley's successful catering business, but when it comes to working its magic on her own love life, she seems to be immune to the charms found only in the plants that have always grown behind the Waverley mansion. Like generations of Waverley women before her, Claire has accepted her family's mysterious gifts, while her estranged sister, Sydney, could not run away from them fast enough. Knowing it's just a matter of time before her abusive boyfriend finally kills her, however, Sydney escapes with her young daughter back home to the only place she knows she'll be safe. Spellbindingly charming, Allen's impressively accomplished debut novel will bewitch fans of Alice Hoffman and Laura Esquivel, as her entrancing brand of magic realism nimbly blends the evanescent desires of hopeless romantics with the inherent wariness of those who have been hurt once too often. Haggas, Carol
Top customer reviews
I’ve come to greatly appreciate the creative mind of Sarah Addison Allen. This is the second book of hers that I have read and I believe I will continue reading more of her material. Seems mystical realism (if that is what it is called) captivates me and soothes my soul.
The book started off with a “Bang” for me and then slowly began to fade. Somewhere along the way, the story became predictable and the character descriptions and unfolding of events lacked the spark that ignited at the beginning of the story. (For this reason, I knocked off one of the stars.)
I loved the character descriptions in this story. Sarah delivered believable characters, rich in descriptions and characteristics that brought them into full view in the minds eye. Each of them were brilliant!
I also loved Sarah’s portrayal of the magic in the garden ... the way the plants come to life and take on their own characteristics as if they're living and responding to their own life force that is in tandem with each of the characters. I wonder ... does my very own garden speak to me in the same manner and I've just never listened or payed attention? Somehow ... I think it does. I will be paying much closer attention ... with all of my senses from here on out! And who doesn’t want an apple tree that bends, rustles leaves and throws apples in order to communicate?! So delightful! ♥
But here’s the thing … this book was a metaphor for me … as all books are, really.
The metaphors were in each of the characters. Sarah has a delightful way of creating interesting people and weaving them into her stories. Here’s what I resonated with in each of the characters;
Claire: The person who craves familiarity, structure and comfort. There’s a method to her ways that keeps her safe and protected. She gets attention and recognized for her creations in the kitchen and as a result, she feels valued and important. After all, she continued a family legacy and made it her own. There’s great satisfaction and comfort in being important enough to have others reach out to you for your gifts and craft … even though it’s the very thing that could be holding her back from living a life in full color that is rich, colorful and juicy.
Sydney: The person who feels the pull to follow in someone’s footsteps … even though it’s misunderstood and extremely uncomfortable. It isn’t until her pain reaches an unbearable threshold that she begins to listen to the calling of her soul. She has a gift … a VERY talented gift that is put on hold or acknowledged simply because an event happened in her life that required ALL of her attention. But … the soul will never let up until it is given permission and power to be lived out in full color. This is the space in the book that reminded me that I can indeed listen to the calling of my soul and trust that it will blossom when the time is right and to never give up on that vision and dream. All in good time ♥
Evanelle: The one who listens to her intuition without trying to reason with it or bring logic into the picture. This woman lives uncompromisingly and true to the stirrings that “Tickle” within. She doesn’t apologize for them or try to comfort those who don’t understand. She just is and owns it! How many of us try to reason with that still, small voice in order to make sense of things, when all along, if we would just love and trust, EVERYTHING will move according to the Divine plan of the Universe. I loved Evanelle for she validated the nudges of my soul and gave me permission to live out loud in full color and determinedly authentically.
Emma: Hate her if you must or … try to understand her and get to know yourself as well. Of all of the characters in this book, she is the most insecure even though she craves power. She does all of the things she was programmed to do and as a result, she really doesn’t know if she is loved and accepted or not. I felt for her in my own way, for I have believed for a very long time in my life that my appearance was all that others saw in me and keeping up my image was a grueling and emotionally taxing façade. Bless her heart, she lived in a state of fear for if she lost the one thing that she really felt she had, who would she be then? I believe there’s a little of Emma in all of us and really, until we all become like Evanelle, we will never truly be free.
This was a delicious and satisfying book. I've been invited to consider new, life giving, ingredients into my cuisine and who knows ... I just may receive the blessings and gifts of them! For now ... I think I'll go bake some zucchini bread and add some Lemon Balm and invite the child within to come to life! Oh how magical!!!
Claire now lives in the old Queen Anne house, and she caters local parties, bringing some of her beautiful and magical recipes to the residents of the town.
Her sister Sydney, six years younger, left years ago, but something is about to bring her back home, along with her six-year-old daughter Bay.
Claire is a woman who likes things to stay the same. Afraid of change, nursing childhood hurts that somehow defined her, she sticks to her familiar routines and avoids anything that will stir up her world. Her mother Lorelei’s abandonment years before has left its mark.
Sydney has been living with David, the abusive father of her child, but she has put all of her efforts into planning her escape, and finding her way back to the place she fled years ago.
A coming together of this family and special people around them will bring something bright and beautiful into all their lives.
Garden Spells is a magical tale that kept me eagerly reading and hoping to learn more about the healing properties that seemed to lurk within the pages.
We meet interesting characters from the town, like Tyler Hughes, who lives next door and can’t seem to stop thinking about Claire. Then there is Henry, who has been in love with Sydney since they were in school together years before. Evanelle Franklin, a 79-year-old aunt, has her own special gifts: she loves giving unique things to people, and changing the direction of their lives.
What will happen to each of these characters, and how does the strange apple tree in the Waverley yard figure into it all?
I loved this book, and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. When I reached the last page, I didn’t want to leave the unique characters or the setting. 5 stars.
There are changes coming and both Claire and Sydney will learn that different isn't always a bad thing.
I appreciate the mystical quality, the wistfulness,
which is why i purchased this book to begin with.
nice mystery, somewhat unpredictable. Some edge.
fun, good story with characters developed enough.
a little cheesy. good to pass time pleasantly, though
it's surprisingly edgy at points!
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