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Garden Spells (Bantam Discovery) Mass Market Paperback – April 29, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 914 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Waverley Family Series

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Bantam Discovery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Discovery (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553590324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553590326
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 0.9 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (914 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #399,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gayla M. Collins VINE VOICE on October 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 46 years of reading a plethora of genres, I have come to love "magic realism." Sarah Addison Allen has a gift for delivering it. The Waverley girls of Bascom, N.C. all have been blessed/cursed with special abilities; Claire has a pruned a garden that grows year round and quite rapidly. Each flower is used to enhance dishes for her catering business. Subtle spells can be gained with a pinch of marigold, a dab of crystallized pansies or an apple from a very temperamental tree. Bay Waverly, 6 years old, has a talent to know exactly where everything goes in any home she enters as well as in any life she enters. Her sister, Sydney, who has fought being a Waverley for 10 years, finally embraces her ability to style and cut hair with a magic that spells her customers into feeling self confident and flirty. Their cousin, Evanelle, gifts people items they don't know they need until something happens later. This charmed family is so endearing, so lovely, one can't help but embrace them heartily.

I am nearly jealous of those who have not read it yet. It is a vibrant experience to live between the pages even if they turn so quickly.

As a first time novelist, Allen bewitches with savory prose and keen insight, leaving this reader to want more. Think of the very best fairy tale you were ever told; now pick up "Garden Spells" and read one of the best magical stories for adults this reader has enjoyed in a long, long time.
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Format: Hardcover
"Every smiley moon, without fail, Claire dreamed of her childhood. She always tried to stay awake those nights when the stars winked and the moon was just a cresting sliver smiling provocatively down at the world, the way pretty women on vintage billboards used to smile as they sold cigarettes and limeade." So begins "Garden Spells." I love books with wonderful beginnings, but sometimes the rest of the book doesn't live up to the beginning. That was not the case with Gardens Spells. It has a delightful beginning and remains delightful through the rest of the book.

This is the story of 2 sisters who each find a different way to cope with a mother who was wild and abandoned them when they were young. Clare creates a very careful, cautious life for herself. Sydney, the younger sister, lives wildly trying to copy a mother she never knew. For a long time they have no contact until circumstances force them together. In the setting of a magical garden, the sisters need to confront their past in order to move forward.

This is the kind of book I like to read on a day when the world seems dark and depressing. It was light, yet still thoughtful. Magic permeates the story. It's full of delightful quirky characters and a romance which could be formulaic if the writer were not so skilled.

Highly recommend.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I am biased in reviewing this novel, as well as Ms Allen's second, 'The Sugar Queen'. I do not fit the demographic for such fare (namely that of whimsical, magical chick-lit set in the South), as I am a middle-aged guy. However, these two books resonated for me in ways that ended up improving their ratings, simply because I have been greatly affected by the presence of romantic Love in the world, and the effects it can manifest in our lives. Specifically for me, the worst effects: my world was turned upside down by unrequited Love, by not being able to create the future that I saw so clearly for this woman and myself. So I am a member of the choir that this tale preaches to, maybe all the more susceptible because of the heartache I endured...and indeed, still endure more than half a decade later.

That out of the way, let me say that once again, as noted in the title for my review for Ms Allen's second novel, I always want more. It is a personal inclination to see possibility in things, in people, in situations. Not only that, but also the mapping-out of how everything might be brought to a higher state of potential. And with this début from Ms Allen, it's so much clearer to me what her strengths...and her weaknesses...are.

She has a wonderful knack with the fantastical. Presenting it in such a way as to not have it be some circus event, but rather something to be accepted. To be wondered at, but not in a mawkish way. Here is a very, very creative person, who has managed to go back to this well twice (three times, if the blurbs about her next effort are accurate), and provides the willing reader with a lot to smile about. Being able to 'charm' with something, whether it be a song, a painting, a magic act, a film, or a novel, is a blessed gift.
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Format: Hardcover
In a lifetime of reading, there are a few novels that are especially precious and unforgettable. Garcia Marquez' ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE. Byatt's POSSESSION. Tartt's THE SECRET HISTORY. This first novel by Sarah Addison Allen is to be added to that short list. Her prose is magical, even when dealing with the mundane ugliness of spousal abuse. Her plot is droll, pleasantly complex, and ultimately satisfying in a most soul-saving Southern graciousness. Her characters, even the most minor of them, are deliciously quirky and lovingly strange, in the most outré of ways. There are echoes of such mistresses of the magical as Alice Hoffman, Anne Rice, Joyce Carol Oates, and Joanne Harris, but Allen quite successfully finds her own voice here and provides a coloratura, if not indeed, a bravura performance. Readers of the above-mentioned litteratureuses will find enjoyment with Garden Spells, as will anyone who loves an intriguing tale well told.
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