Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

There’s magic and garden and romance; a good premise for an enjoyable reading. Sarah Addison Allen does magic realism with a sprinkle of humor (that's not necessarily dark), twisting the magic recipe theme into a parade of funny yet sweet quirks.

Garden Spells is the first in the Waverly Family series centering on the sisters Clair and Sydney and their journey to making peace with each other, dealing with a temperamental apple tree in the backyard, love life and small-town scrutiny. It's my first time reading Sarah Addison Allen and her book has been on my reading list for some time as it was said it's quite reminiscent of Alice Hoffman's works. It took a blogger who loves gardening to give me the needed push and I simply fell into it without stopping.

I loved the warmth of the Waverly home, a Queen Anne architecture on Pendland Street. Evanelle Waverly is perhaps the most beloved figure out of them all. There are characters to be fond of and there are some to be annoyed of, though it's not exactly that black and white, mind you.

It is interesting to note that the Waverlies aren't the only ones having magical properties in their veins. Their small town, Bascom, is chockful of them; families that, over the years, have retained stature of their best unique trait or throw out an intended one every generation or so.

As it is an ongoing series, a few threads in the story were not easily resolved which dents a little what gratified pleasure I felt at the end of the book. Addison carves out the melodrama through the history of these characters and their families which remain deep-seated and almost unyielding. I think it must be this that messes up the equilibrium for me, the parts where I am forced to accept, move on and not linger without much transition. But, still, I dwell. The same happened to me while reading Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden and I wasn't quite fond of the time spent on misplaced anguish. This unyielding nature displayed in the characters as a result washes over to the twists of the plot. Perhaps, in time, things will gradually fall in place (when the series ends) but, for now, this element gives rise to that eager curiosity to get my hands on that second book.

With heaps of culinary notes on the magic of herbs and flowers and a nice old sweet romance, Garden Spells got itself a lovely recipe that echoes the eccentricities of the American South with a dash of enchantment.


The women of the Waverley family -- whether they like it or not -- are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.

For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business -- and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life -- upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.

As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney's child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.

Title: Garden Spells
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Genre: Magic Realism, Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary
Publisher: August 2007
Published: Bantam
Rating: ♨♨♨ 1/2 ( 3 and a half cups - Fun and sweet with a dash of romance, magic and melodrama.)