Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

2007. Bantam Books. Hardcover. 290 pages.

From: the public library

In a nutshell:

Claire and Sydney Waverley were not close sisters growing up, each resenting some aspect about the other. Sydney left home immediately after high school and Claire inherited the family home and its magical apple tree. When Sydney flees with her young daughter to her hometown to escape an abusive relationship, the sisters get a chance to know each other all over again.

Review:

I read Sarah Addison Allen’s The Girl Who Chased the Moon earlier this summer and enjoyed it for what it was, a light summer read. I had a few quibbles but obviously not major ones as I decided to read another book by her, Garden Spells. I picked it up after work on a Friday and finished it hours later. It was a perfect end-of-the-week bit of escapism.

Garden Spells is extremely similar to The Girl Who Chased the Moon plot-wise, but I thought Garden Spells was the better of the two. I was equally interested in both sisters’ storylines, whereas in The Girl Who Chased the Moon, I thought the teenage girl’s story was a little weaker.

Also, I thought the magic in Garden Spells was more intriguing and organically whimsical than in the other book. I loved the little details, like how sometimes when everyone laughs at once in the old family home, all the windows open. If I had a quibble with Garden Spells, I guess I didn’t much care for Emma Clark’s story, although I appreciated that she was made a human being and not a villainess.

Having read two books by Allen this summer, their similarities just jump out at me. For instance, although I would characterize Allen’s books as light, good-humored fiction, cruelty and sadness still exist in her characters’ lives. However, cruelty and sadness predominantly reside in the past (childhood and especially high school years) or if the more recent past, they occurred somewhere other than the hometown. Returning to one’s hometown is associated with the start of healing, and reconnection with old friends and possible future lovers. Revelations will be made about dead parents.

Allen’s books are romantic; other types of relationships are definitely important, but the romances are certainly central to the story. One of the two main female characters (the one that makes yummy food for a living) will be resistant to the persistent and charming man pursuing her but will slowly melt her defenses after a couple scorching scenes. Small towns thrive and one can find jobs there. The hometowns are a fantasy place where readers and characters both find escape and refuge (the reader only temporarily, the characters presumably forever).

I really loved that the end of Garden Spells was told from the perspective of Bay, Sydney’s young daughter. It was just the right touch, to see things from a child’s eye, a child that has found a place where she belongs and where she is safe.

Others’ reviews:

Educating Petunia – “There are certain types of chick lit. that I detest and there are some that I enjoy. Garden Spells fits into the latter category . . . What I did mind was the ending. I was so disappointed at the stupidity of the ending.”

Reading Matters – “It’s slightly predictable and the romantic elements are cliched, but this is balanced by a tightly written plot and such glorious descriptions of food you can’t help but feel hungry as you turn each page.”

write meg! – “No character in the book seemed to be thrown into the story — everyone had a purpose, and everyone had a place.”

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

  1. Pingback: The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen | A Good Stopping Point

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