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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
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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!