Garden Spells
by Sarah Addison Allen

Bantam Discovery, 2008. ISBN 978-0-553-59032-6.
Reviewed by Laura Strathman Hulka
Posted on 06/28/2008

Fiction: Chick Lit; Fiction: Paranormal/Science Fiction/Fantasy; Fiction: Romance

Such a perfect book for spring and summer reading; the visions of this special garden soon dwell in your mind, and provide a delightful backdrop for the chick lit story between the covers. This is a first novel, and I hope that Ms. Allen's future books are as moving and passionate as this.

The storyline is mellow, with the occasional sharp jab of pain to remind us of the realities of family. Two sisters, Claire and Sydney, separated in the past by misunderstandings and misconceptions, come together in the old Southern family home to try to mend and grow a future together. Sydney has returned home with a young daughter, Bay, and a hidden dark secret of abuse and constant running. Claire has always been home, but has retreated to the walls of the family manse, using it as an escape from love, friendship and the future.

Ah, and then there is the garden. Filled with magic and muses, an apple tree that chooses on whom to bestow its fruit; herbs, flowers and fruits which create meaning and purpose to the recipes that Claire creates for her catering company. Are you seeking a calm finish to a delightful meal? Add violet flowers to your dessert as it induces such calm, and brings on happiness, and always assures a good night sleep. (A delightful compendium of herbs and flowers and their cosmic usefulness is at the end of the book...)

The lives of the sisters intertwine and diverge, and a strong family presence and security for the young Bay evolves. Each woman in the family has a talent, an innate skill that influences those around her. Add to this mix a delightful dingbat of an Aunt Evanelle, whose magic consists of a "knowing" what items might be useful to others. Did Evanelle give you a lighter? A kitchen tool? A set of sheets? Keep them, for their need and meaning will come! Stick two men into the story, each with their own needs and strengths, and slowly a pattern is evident. Developing strength within yourself is a first priority, but without family and love, there is no completeness.

Highly recommended, especially for those who love magic in the garden.

Sarah is a Southern writer—with all the depth of meaning that entails! Born and raised in Asheville North Carolina, she says about Garden Spells: "Garden Spells, my mainstream debut, didn't start out as a magical novel. It was supposed to be a simple story about two sisters reconnecting after many years. But then the apple tree started throwing apples and the story took on a life of its own...and my life hasn't been the same since." Visit her website.

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