Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Review: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Garden Spells is another book I picked up on my latest library adventure. I had been wanting to read it for what seems like forever but I never actually went through with buying it, so when I saw it on the library shelf I had to scoop it up. On the surface, the story is straight forward: two sisters finding their way back into each other's lives after years apart. But Garden Spells has an underlying magical theme that takes the story from straight forward to off the beaten path in a really wonderful way.

The Waverley's are a family in Bascom, North Carolina known for their strange ways and even stranger garden. For generations the Waverley's have nurtured and tended their magical garden that grows edible flowers and herbs with the ability to affect a persons feelings when ingested and boasts a mischievous apple tree that tosses prophetic apples at the unsuspecting. Over the years, the Waverley's magical garden and strange family has made the townspeople wary of the family and over time, they've become outsiders in the town they live in.

Claire and Sydney are sisters that couldn't be any more different if they tried. While Claire embraced being a Waverley and all of the eccentricities that came with it, Sydney disliked growing up as an outsider because of her family and distanced herself from them. Sydney took off when she was eighteen and lived a life of deception, hopping from city to city and man to man. Meanwhile, Claire used her Waverley gift to open up her own catering business, making foods laced with flowers and herbs that grow in the Waverly garden. When Sydney shows back up on the Waverley doorstep with a five year old daughter in tow after being gone for ten years, both Claire and Sydney are forced to face their past together in order to stand a chance at moving toward their future.

I had a good time reading Garden Spells. It was a quick, meaningful read with an enchanting feel. Both Waverley sisters have emotional baggage left over from the actions of their flighty mother, and they have both made bad decisions based on what they believed to be true of the mother they never really knew. These preconceived notions kept Claire and Sydney from being close growing up, but with Sydney's return they are given the chance to work through those problems. At the same time, they are both dealing with the entrance and re-entrance of men into their lives. As Claire dodges her romantic interest, Sydney doesn't even realize that her childhood friend is interested in her. Reading about these two women stumble along the way to romance was both humorous, and sweet.

While Claire and Sydney's story takes center stage there are also a few other stories being told. Like that of Clair and Sydney's elderly cousin, Evanelle, whose Waverley gift shows through in the way she impulsively gives people unexpected gifts that they, without fail, will eventually need. Evanelle strikes up an unlikely friendship with the town's grocery owner, Fred, who is having a hard time dealing with his life partner moving slowly but surely out of his life. There is also a thread that deals with Sydney's first love, John Hunter and his wife, Emma, who was once Sydney's best friend, and how they deal with Sydney's return to Bascom and the effects it has on their marriage.

As a whole, Garden Spells is a very enjoyable book. The highlight of the story for me was the relationship formed between Claire and Sydney. Having a younger sister myself, their journey was one that hit close to home and made the story all the more sweeter. Garden Spells is an enchanting tale of self exploration, hope, love, and new beginnings. I closed the book with a smile on my face, and warmth in my heart. Grade A.

Visit Sarah Addison Allen's site here. Read and excerpt from Garden Spells here.


  1. This is one I've had on my list for a while, too. I really should get to it - it sounds lovely, especially the way you felt when you finished the book.

  2. I only read the last paragraph because I have this one on my TBR pile. It's actually sitting on the table by the front door with Deanna Raybourn's latest. So it's made it off the bookshelves and downstairs. :) Now I just need to find time to read it but with an A grade I will make the time. Thanks Brie!

  3. What an evocative review. I'll definitely have to pick this up now.

  4. Brie!! I love how you read the most unexpected and unusual books :) This one definitively sounds interesting :) Wonder if my library has it... hmmm. Is there a happy ending?

  5. I've been wanting to read this book ever since Jace reviewed it last year. Now that I've read your wonderful review, Brie, I simply must put it at the top of my reading queue.

  6. Hi all!

    Belle, it was really a lovely book.

    Leslie, I hope you enjoy Garden Spells as much as I did.

    gktravels- Thanks for stopping by. If you decide to get this one I hope you enjoy it.

    Hi Nath! I'm all over the place with my reading lately. Yes, there is a happy ending.

    Christine, Me too! It was after Jace's review that I decided that I had to read GS.

  7. I've been wanting to read this book for awhile now. I just need to find the time. Glad to hear that you liked it so much :)

  8. Hi Samantha, I really did like it. Hope you do to.