Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Title: Garden Spells
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Source: The library where I work
Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge
First Sentence: "Every smiley moon, without fail, Claire dreamed of her childhood."
Summary (From book flap):
The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.
A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants -- from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys -- except for Claire's rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.
When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire's quiet life is turned upside down -- along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Clair struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy -- if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom -- or with each other.
My Two Cents:
I have been eyeing this book on the shelves of my library for ages, so when I volunteered to review Allen's newest book for the Pump Up Your Book Promotion tour in March, I figured I should probably read her first book, too. I'm glad I did.
Allen's writing draws you into a world where even the most unimaginable things, such as an apple tree whose fruit will tell you the most significant event in your life, seem completely logical. As much as I love completely fantastic worlds, such as the one J.K. Rowling created for Harry Potter, sometimes I think that worlds that look a whole lot like our own but have a magical element are more fun. I guess maybe it's the little kid in me hoping to find something magical around every corner.
Her characters are incredibly well-rounded. Claire is scared of losing someone important to her again, so that makes her standoffish and very routine-oriented. However, she is able to open herself back up to the possibility that people can change by the end of the book. To me, the ability for a character to change and learn something new over the course of a novel is the sign of a good, well-written character. Static characters who always do the same things are boring. I like characters who spice things up a little!
I absolutely adored the character of Evanelle. I wish I knew someone just like her. She has a special gift, as part of her Waverley inheritance, that she just knows that she needs to give a person a particular object at a certain time. She can't tell you what you'll need that object for, but she just knows that she needs to give it to you. I also loved her relationship with Fred, the grocer. Where Evanelle is spontaneous and disorganized, Fred likes to plan and have a place for everything. They work together really well.
My only criticism of this book is that parts of the ending were kind of predictable. I knew that a certain thing was going to happen (I won't reveal what because that'd spoil it for you!), so I spent a lot of the book just waiting for that one thing to happen. Sure, I didn't know how it was all going to play out, but I knew that it would happen. It didn't really ruin my enjoyment of the book at all, but I do like to be surprised.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a little fantasy with their realism, and anyone who enjoys women's novels. It's a great novel of family relationships and learning to trust again.