Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

I picked up this book because the description on the cover made me think of the YA fiction books I was fond of and the movie Practical Magic, which is still one of my favorites.
The novel is set in the fictional town of Bascom, North Carolina, where every family has something particular to its members. The Waverley women, the story's main characters, have a knack for having intuitive, almost psychic, abilities. The Clark women can use their sexual prowess to make nearly anything they want happen. The Hopkins men are only meant to fall in love with older women. Everyone more or less knows what role they will fall into and regardless of newcomers in town regarding these things as superstitions, the locals all have one another's places figured out as well.

The story opens with Syndey Waverely, the younger of the two Waverley sisters fleeing home to Bascom with her daughter Bay to get away from a dangerous man that abused her and kept her under lock and key, only allowing her to leave the house three times a week to take Bay to the park. She's returning to a place she never wanted to be, the same place that her older sister Claire never wanted to leave. Claire at 34 years old is beautiful but on her way to becoming a spinster with no friends or romatic possibilities, a stick in the mud, and a caterer who uses the herbs in her garden to make her famous dishes both delicious and magical. She also has an apple tree in her back yard with apples that will reveal the biggest moment of your life to you if you eat one of them. Her stable, monotonous world is turned inside out when her sister returns home and Tyler, the art professor, moves in next door, daring her to fall in love with him when she's resisted becoming close to others for so long.

This story is loaded with small town gossips, drama that carries over from high school that people should have forgotten years ago, snobbery, and quirky characters. My favorite is James, a lonely old gay grocer whose long time partner leaves him, causing James to move in with a widow named Evenelle that is forever weirding people out because she is always getting the sudden urge to give people specific things, knowing they'll need a mango splitter or a box of Strawberry poptarts for reasons that remain unknown to her but become clear to the doubtful person the gift is given to shortly afterwards.
I couldn't put it down because I had to know if Claire would get the stick out of her arse and take a chance, if Syndey had really escaped this time, why Evanelle had given her strange gifts, to find out who Henry Hopkins' older woman would be. I felt a little disappointed at the end because it seemed to wrap up a little bit too easily. I decided to give Allen a break though, as it's her first novel.
I thought it was a charming book, but it probably will never be any kind of award winner. It was a nice break from the CJ and Literary Criticism textbooks I've been reading, though, that's for sure. The writer lives in Asheville, North Carolina and is working on her next book now, which I am already excited about.


Carlton said...

This sounds a lot like Semi-Pro.

Christopher said...

Why does Bascom sound so much like a real town?

Brooke said...

What is Semi-Pro?
It sounds like a real town because it's settled right beside Hickory, which is a real town, and all the characters went to UNC or Western which are real schools and I'm guessing Bascom is suppose to be down the mountain somewhere probably a little over an hour from Boone.
But that's just a guess.

Christopher said...

Well, I haven't read the book so I don't know those details. I'm just saying it sounds a lot like a town that does or would exist in Western North Carolina.

Christopher said...

Just the name, I mean

Carlton said...

Semi-Pro is the new Will Ferrel movie about the American Basketball Association. It is sure to be a hilarious romp. Take the whole family!

Nihil Novum said...

Carlton is obviously the world's most tenacious plant.