BOOK REVIEW: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Title: Garden Spells
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Publication: August 28, 2007
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 321

SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

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.


To be honest, when this book won for my book club I was totally over the moon about reading it.   Maybe its the extremely dated-looking cover or maybe the description of the book felt off to me.  However, I always look at book club as a way to read books that I normally wouldn’t read and have found a few authors that I know I will enjoy in the future.  So with that in mind, I went into the book with an open mind. 

Claire is a Waverley.  They are known in their tiny town for their amazing food and their special apples.  She runs a catering company out of her house and is a sought after person for parties.  She has never left her hometown ever.  Sydney, her sister, is the opposite as soon as she could she left her hometown and never looked back.  Bouncing from city to city and eventually took on a different name.  All that changed when Sydney left and abusive relationship with her daughter in tow and fled back home to Claire. While Claire is delighted to see her, these two sisters must find a way to live with each other.  Ok, honestly this book was a drag for me to read.  I really wanted to like it, but I had to force myself to read it to write the discussion questions for book club.  It took me about 4 weeks to read it 2 chapters at a time.  That is a bit ridiculous for me.  I will say that the book was written in such a way that I did want to know what happened to the characters, however, I really wasn’t vested in any of them.  

I had a hard time figuring out if the Waverley sister’s were magical or not.  In the end, I think I finally decided that they were.  The author never really came right out and said it.  When Claire started burning stuff with her hands is when I finally came to that decision.  I thought the whole Emma storyline was something that really didn’t need to be in the book.  Yes, her husband at one point loved and dated Sydney but that was so long ago that her going over the top and laying naked on his desk at work just seemed a little much in my opinion.  The only thing Emma was good for was telling Sydney that her violent ex was back in town and Syndey didn’t even get the message until it was too late.  I will say that I did like the interaction with the sisters, it was a believable relationship that I could see having with my sisters.  Now, these are just my opinions, go ahead and read the book and make your own judgment call on it.  I will, however, not be reading any of the other books in the series, I will not subject myself to it. 


Pick up your copy of Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or check your local bookstore. Also make sure to add it to your To Reads list on Goodreads and leave feedback for the author when you are finished. You can check out more from author Sarah Addison Allen on her website here.

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