Garden Spells

( 2546 )

Overview

In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.…

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, ...
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Overview

In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.…

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants—from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys—except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down—along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy—if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom—or with each other.

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own….

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
A Selection of Barnes & Noble Recommends
In her first novel, Sarah Addison Allen has written a tender, bewitching book told with captivating invention, peopled with characters to care about, and filled with the irresistible magic of dreams come true.

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.

About the Author
"Garden Spells didn't start out as a magical novel," writes Sarah Addison Allen. "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."

Allen was born and raised in North Carolina, and the character of her home terrain is recognizable even in the magical precincts of Bascom, the fictional community in which her novel unfolds. "The name of the town, and Lunsford's reservoir, the local swimming hole, mentioned in Garden Spells," Allen explains, "are subtle nods to Bascom Lamar Lunsford, the man who founded the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, North Carolina, purportedly the longest running folk festival in the nation."

The author has a B.A. in literature, a major she pursued, she says, "because I thought it was amazing that I could get a diploma just for reading fiction. It was like being able to major in eating chocolate." She credits her father—a reporter and award-winning columnist for a local newspaper—for her "stubborn writing genes." And like Claire Waverley in Garden Spells, Allen herself has a sister named Sydney.

She resides in Asheville, North Carolina, where she is currently at work on her next novel, The Sugar Queen, which will be published by Bantam in Summer 2008.

From Our Booksellers

Combine two parts Alice Hoffman and one part Rebecca Wells with a splash of Sue Monk Kidd, and you have Garden Spells! A great read for anyone who loves cooking, southern fiction, or just a great love story.
--Angel Ramandt, Baltimore, MD

Garden Spells is a magical escape into a world gentled by caring and ancient ways. A sweet story that adds hope to the world.
--Patty Rogala, Birmingham, AL

This magical story had me under its spell from beginning to end.
--Joni Padgett, Louisville, KY

A delicious truffle of a book. It will find its way into the most cynical of hearts.
—Amy Abts, Duluth, MN
From the Publisher
“It’s refreshing to find a Southern novel that doesn’t depend on folksy humor or stereotypes but instead on the imaginative use of magical realism. Just buy it, read it, and recommend it to others.”—Library Journal, starred review

Garden Spells is so tender and enchanting, it drew me in on page one, and held me captivated—without letting me go for even a minute—until the end. I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen’s writing, and her world. She believes in love, and that’s her magic: She conjures a garden of moon vine and angel’s trumpet, fills it with characters who need each other, and writes so well you’ll never forget any of them.”—Luanne Rice

“Sarah Addison Allen has crafted a wonderful story that will cast a spell on everyone who has the pleasure of reading it. Garden Spells has a harvest of rich characters, a plot that will have you checking what you eat, and a heart that is overflowing with the tangled joys and sorrows of love and life.” —Kris Radish

Garden Spells is a rare and mesmerizing novel, brimming with light and fierce joy and the sharp shadows that must accompany such a tale. I desperately want to go live in Bascom and fall asleep in the Waverleys’ garden and let the magic and sweetness fill my every hour with its heady sense of possibility. So will you. This is one of the most charming books I’ve read in ages!”—Barbara Samuel

Garden Spells is truly spellbinding, beautifully crafted and as bewitching as the title suggests. This is Southern charm at its most beguiling, with characters you’ll take to your heart, a delicious love story, and a magical garden you’ll wish was in your own backyard. I devoured it in one sitting and was left eagerly awaiting Sarah Addison Allen’s next novel.”—Eileen Goudge

“Charming.... [Imbued] with a Southern charm that readers won't want to resist any more than they would Claire's violet cake.”—Christian Science Monitor

Library Journal
Two mysteriously gifted sisters deal with abandonment by their mother in very different ways in this novel by Allen (The Girl Who Chased the Moon; The Sugar Queen): Sydney runs far away to find adventure while Claire sticks close to home, unwilling to open up to the world around her. When Sydney unexpectedly returns, both sisters find healing and joy in rediscovering the magic that lives within them. VERDICT Self-discovery with a touch of magic can always make for a great summer read.
Library Journal - BookSmack!
The subtle enchantments of Holly's grandmother are full blown in Allen's charming and generous novel of family, love, and magic. Like Senate, Allen focuses on women discovering their path and maintains a pace that allows readers to sink into the story and linger. Also like Senate, Allen's novel is full of rich detail, almost dripping with descriptions of plants, magic, and various edible concoctions. In Bascom, NC, the Waverley women have a certain reputation. Some generations have fled from the notoriety, but Claire has stayed and runs a catering business in which everything she makes has particular effects. When her sister and niece re-enter her life (each with her own magical abilities) and a new neighbor moves next door, Claire's world, so seemingly settled, changes in ways both delicious and unnerving. — Neal Wyatt, "RA Crossroads," Booksmack! 2/3/11
Publishers Weekly

Two gifted sisters draw on their talents to belatedly forge a bond and find their ways in life in Allen's easygoing debut novel. Thirty-four-year-old Claire Waverley manifests her talent in cooking; using edible flowers, Claire creates dishes that "affect the eater in curious ways." But not all Waverley women embrace their gifts; some, including Claire's mother, escape the family's eccentric reputation by running away. She abandoned Claire and her sister when they were young. Consequently, Claire has remained close to home, unwilling to open up to new people or experiences. Claire's younger sister, Sydney, however, followed in their mother's footsteps 10 years ago and left for New York, and after a string of abusive, roustabout boyfriends, returns to Bascom, N.C., with her five-year-old daughter, Bay. As Sydney reacquaints herself with old friends and rivals, she discovers her own Waverley magic. Claire, in turn, begins to open up to her sister and in the process learns how to welcome other possibilities. Though Allen's prose can lean toward the pedestrian and the romance subplots feel perfunctory, the blending of horticultural folklore, the supernatural and a big dollop of Southern flavor should find favor with a wide swath of readers. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553384833
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/29/2008
  • Series: Bantam Discovery Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 93,589
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Addison Allen
Sarah Addison Allen lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she is at work on her next novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

North Carolina novelist Sarah Addison Allen brings the full flavor of her southern upbringing to bear on her fiction -- a captivating blend of fairy tale magic, heartwarming romance, and small-town sensibility.

Born and raised in Asheville, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Allen grew up with a love of books and an appreciation of good food (she credits her journalist father for the former and her mother, a fabulous cook, for the latter). In college, she majored in literature -- because, as she puts it, "I thought it was amazing that I could get a diploma just for reading fiction. It was like being able to major in eating chocolate."

After graduation in 1994, Allen began writing seriously. She sold a few stories and penned romances for Harlequin under the pen name Katie Gallagher; but her big break occurred in 2007 with the publication of her first mainstream novel, Garden Spells, a modern-day fairy tale about an enchanted apple tree and the family of North Carolina women who tend it. Booklist called Allen's accomplished debut "spellbindingly charming," and the novel became a BookSense pick and a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection.

Since then, Allen has continued to serve heaping helpings of the fantastic and the familiar in fiction she describes as "Southern-fried magic realism." Clearly, it's a recipe readers are happy to eat up as fast as she can dish it out.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Allen:

"I love food. The comforting and sensual nature of food always seems to find its way into what I write. Garden Spells involves edible flowers. My book out in 2008 involves southern and rural candies. Book three, barbeque. But, you know what? I'm a horrible cook."

"In college I worked for a catalog company, taking orders over the phone. Occasionally celebrities would call in their own orders. My brush with celebrity? I took Bob Barker's order."

"I was a Star Wars fanatic when I was a kid. I have the closet full of memorabilia to prove it -- action figures, trading cards, comic books, notebooks with ‘Mrs. Mark Hamill' written all over the pages. I can't believe I just admitted that."

"While I was writing this, a hummingbird came to check out the trumpet vine outside my open window. I stopped typing and sat very still, mesmerized, my hands frozen on the keys, until it flew away. I looked back to my computer and ten minutes had passed in a flash."

"I love being a writer."

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Every smiley moon, without fail, Claire dreamed of her childhood. She always tried to stay awake those nights when the stars winked and the moon was just a cresting sliver smiling provocatively down at the world, the way pretty women on vintage billboards used to smile as they sold cigarettes and limeade. On those nights in the summer, Claire would garden by the light of the solar-powered footpath lamps, weeding and trimming the night bloomers-the moon vine and the angel's trumpet, the night jasmine and the flowering tobacco. These weren't a part of the Waverley legacy of edible flowers, but sleepless as she often was, Claire had added flowers to the garden to give her something to do at night when she was so wound up that frustration singed the edge of her nightgown and she set tiny fires with her fingertips.

What she dreamed of was always the same. Long roads like snakes with no tails. Sleeping in the car at night while her mother met men in bars and honky-tonks. Being a lookout while her mother stole shampoo and deodorant and lipstick and sometimes a candy bar for Claire at Shop-and-Gos around the Midwest. Then, just before she woke up, her sister, Sydney, always appeared in a halo of light. Lorelei held Sydney and ran to the Waverley home in Bascom, and the only reason Claire was able to go with them was because she was holding tight to her mother's leg and wouldn't let go.

That morning, when Claire woke up in the backyard garden, she tasted regret in her mouth. With a frown, she spit it out. She was sorry for the way she'd treated her sister as a child. But the six years of Claire's life before Sydney's arrival had been fraught with the constant fear of being caught, of being hurt, of not having enough food or gas or warm clothes for the winter. Her mother always came through but always at the last minute. Ultimately, they were never caught and Claire was never hurt and, when the first cold snap signaled the changing colors of the leaves, her mother magically produced blue mittens with white snowflakes on them and pink thermal underwear to wear under jeans and a cap with a droopy ball on top. That life on the run had been good enough for Claire, but Lorelei obviously thought Sydney deserved better, that Sydney deserved to be born with roots. And the small scared child in Claire hadn't been able to forgive her.

Picking up the clippers and the trowel from the ground beside her, she stood stiffly and walked in the dawning fog toward the shed. She suddenly stopped. She turned and looked around. The garden was quiet and damp, the temperamental apple tree at the back of the lot shivering slightly as if dreaming. Generations of Waverleys had tended this garden. Their history was in the soil, but so was their future. Something was about to happen, something the garden wasn't ready to tell her yet. She would have to keep a sharp eye out.

She went to the shed and carefully wiped the dew off the old tools and hung them on their places on the wall. She closed and locked the heavy gate door to the garden, then crossed the driveway at the back of the ostentatious Queen Anne-style home she'd inherited from her grandmother.

Claire entered the house through the back, stopping in the sunroom that had been turned into a drying and cleaning room for herbs and flowers. It smelled strongly of lavender and peppermint, like walking into a Christmas memory that didn't belong to her. She drew her dirty white nightgown over her head, balled it up, and walked naked into the house. It was going to be a busy day. She had a dinner party to cater that night, and it was the last Tuesday in May, so she had to deliver her end-of-the-month shipment of lilac and mint and rose-petal jellies and nasturtium and chive-blossom vinegars to the farmers' market and to the gourmet grocery store on the square, where the college kids from Orion College would hang out after classes.

There was a knock at the door as Claire was pulling her hair back with combs. She went downstairs in a white eyelet sundress, still barefooted. When she opened the door, she smiled at the fireplug of an old lady standing on the porch.

Evanelle Franklin was seventy-nine years old, looked like she was one hundred and twenty, yet still managed to walk a mile around the track at Orion five days a week. Evanelle was a distant relation, a second or third or fourteenth cousin, and she was the only other Waverley still living in Bascom. Claire stuck to her like static, needing to feel a connection to family after Sydney took off when she was eighteen and their grandmother died the same year.

When Claire was young, Evanelle would stop by to give her a Band-Aid hours before she scraped her knee, quarters for her and Sydney long before the ice cream truck arrived, and a flashlight to put under her pillow a full two weeks before lightning struck a tree down the street and the entire neighborhood was without power all night. When Evanelle brought you something, you were usually going to need it sooner or later, though that cat bed she gave Claire five years ago had yet to find its use. Most people in town treated Evanelle kindly but with amusement, and even Evanelle didn't take herself too seriously. But Claire knew there was always something behind the strange gifts Evanelle brought.

"Well, don't you look eye-talian with your dark hair and Sophia Loren dress. Your picture should be on a bottle of olive oil," Evanelle said. She was in her green velour running suit, and slung over her shoulder was a rather large tote bag full of quarters and stamps and egg timers and soap, all things she might feel the need to give someone at some point.

"I was just about to make some coffee," Claire said, stepping back. "Come in."

"Don't mind if I do." Evanelle entered and followed Claire to the kitchen, where she sat at the kitchen table while Claire made the coffee. "You know what I hate?"

Claire looked over her shoulder as steam carrying the smell of coffee curled around the kitchen. "What do you hate?"

"I hate summer."Claire laughed. She loved having Evanelle around. Claire had tried for years to get the old lady to move into the Waverley house so she could take care of her, so the house wouldn't feel as if the walls were moving out of her way as she walked, making the hallways longer and rooms bigger. "Why on earth would you hate summer? Summer is wonderful. Fresh air, open windows, picking tomatoes and eating them while they're still warm from the sun."

"I hate summer because most of them college kids leave town, so there aren't as many runners and I don't have any nice male backsides to look at when I walk the track."

"You're a dirty old lady, Evanelle."

"I'm just sayin'."

"Here you go," Claire said, setting a coffee cup on the table in front of Evanelle.

Evanelle peered into the cup. "You didn't put anything in it, did you?"

"You know I didn't."

"Because your side of the Waverleys always wants to put something in everything. Bay leaves in bread, cinnamon in coffee. I like things plain and simple. Which reminds me, I brought you something." Evanelle grabbed her tote bag and brought out a yellow Bic lighter.

"Thank you, Evanelle," Claire said as she took the lighter and put it in her pocket. "I'm sure this will come in handy."

"Or maybe it won't. I just knew I had to give it to you." Evanelle, who had twenty-eight sweet teeth, all of them false, picked up her coffee and looked over at the covered cake plate on the stainless-steel island. "What have you made over there?"

"White cake. I stirred violet petals into the batter. And I crystallized some violets to put on top. It's for a dinner party I'm catering tonight." Claire picked up a Tupperware container beside it. "This white cake, I made for you. Nothing weird in it, I promise." She set it on the table next to Evanelle."

You are the sweetest girl. When are you going to get married? When I'm gone, who will take care of you?"

"You're not going anywhere. And this is a perfect house for a spinster to live in. I'll grow old in this house, and neighborhood children will vex me by trying to get to the apple tree in the backyard and I'll chase them away with a broom. And I'll have lots of cats. That's probably why you gave me that cat bed."

Evanelle shook her head. "Your problem is routine. You like your routine too much. You get that from your grandmother. You're too attached to this place, just like her."

Claire smiled because she liked being compared to her grandmother. She had no idea about the security of having a name until her mother brought her here, to this house where her grandmother lived. They'd been in Bascom maybe three weeks, Sydney had just been born, and Claire had been sitting outside under the tullip tree in the front yard while people in town came to see Lorelei and her new baby. Claire wasn't new, so she didn't think anyone would want to see her. A couple came out of the house after visiting, and they watched Claire quietly build tiny log cabins with twigs. "She's a Waverley, all right," the woman said. "In her own world."

Claire didn't look up, didn't say a word, but she grabbed the grass before her body floated up. She was a Waverley. She didn't tell anyone, not a soul, for fear of someone taking her happiness away, but from that day on she would follow her grandmother out into the garden every morning, studying her, wanting to be like her, wanting to do all the things a true Waverley did to prove that, even though she wasn't born here, she was a Waverley too."

I have to pack some boxes of jelly and vinegar to deliver," she said to Evanelle. "If you'll wait here for a minute, I'll drive you home."

"Are you making a delivery to Fred's?" Evanelle asked.

"Yes."

"Then I'll just go with you. I need Cokecola. And some Goo Goo Clusters. And maybe I'll pick up some tomatoes. You made me crave tomatoes."

While Evanelle debated the merits of yellow tomatoes versus red, Claire took four corrugated boxes out of the storeroom and packed up the jelly and the vinegar. When she was done, Evanelle followed her outside to her white minivan with Waverley's Catering written on the side.

Evanelle got in the passenger seat while Claire put her boxes in the back, then Claire handed Evanelle the container with her plain white cake in it and a brown paper bag to hold.

"What's this?" Evanelle said, looking in the brown bag as Claire got behind the wheel.

"A special order."

"It's for Fred," Evanelle said knowingly.

"Do you think he'd ever do business with me again if I told you that?"

"It's for Fred."

"I didn't say that."

"It's for Fred."

"I don't think I heard you. Who is it for?"

Evanelle sniffed. "Now you're being Miss Smarty Pants."

Claire laughed and pulled out of the drive.

Business was doing well, because all the locals knew that dishes made from the flowers that grew around the apple tree in the Waverley garden could affect the eater in curious ways. The biscuits with lilac jelly, the lavender tea cookies, and the tea cakes made with nasturtium mayonnaise the Ladies Aid ordered for their meetings once a month gave them the ability to keep secrets. The fried dandelion buds over marigold-petal rice, stuffed pumpkin blossoms, and rose-hip soup ensured that your company would notice only the beauty of your home and never the flaws. Anise hyssop honey butter on toast, angelica candy, and cupcakes with crystallized pansies made children thoughtful. Honeysuckle wine served on the Fourth of July gave you the ability to see in the dark. The nutty flavor of the dip made from hyacinth bulbs made you feel moody and think of the past, and the salads made with chicory and mint had you believing that something good was about to happen, whether it was true or not.

The dinner Claire was catering that night was being hosted by Anna Chapel, the head of the art department at Orion College, who gave a dinner party at the end of every spring semester for her department. Claire had catered these parties for her for the past five years. It was good exposure to get her name out among the university crowd, because they only expected good food with a splash of originality, whereas the people in town who had lived there all their lives came to her to cater affairs with a specific agenda-to get something off your chest and be assured the other person wouldn't speak of it again, to secure a promotion, or to mend a friendship.

First Claire took the jelly and vinegar to the farmers' market on the highway, where she'd rented shelf space at a booth, then she went into town and parked in front of Fred's Gourmet Grocery, formerly Fred's Foods, as it had been called for two generations, before a posher college and touristy crowd started shopping there.

She and Evanelle walked into the market with its creaking hardwood floors. Evanelle headed for the tomatoes, while Claire went to the back to Fred's office.

She knocked once, then opened the door. "Hello, Fred."

Sitting at his father's old desk, he had invoices in front of him, but judging by the way he jumped when Claire opened the door, his mind had been on other things. He immediately stood. "Claire. Good to see you."

"I have those two boxes you ordered."

"Good, good." He grabbed the white blazer hanging on the back of his chair and put it on over his short-sleeved black shirt. He walked out to her van with her and helped her bring the boxes in. "Did, um, did you bring that other thing we talked about?" he asked as they walked to the stockroom.

She smiled slightly and went back outside. A minute later she came back in and handed him the paper bag with a bottle of rose geranium wine in it.

Fred took it, looking embarrassed, then he handed her an envelope with a check in it. The act was completely innocuous, because he always gave her a check when she delivered her jelly and vinegar, but this check was a full ten times what his normal check to her was. And the envelope was brighter, as if filled with lightning bugs, lit by his hope.

"Thank you, Fred. I'll see you next month."

"Right. Bye, Claire."

From the Hardcover edition.

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Introduction

The Waverleys are a curious family to the townspeople of Bascom, North Carolina. Legend has it that their feisty apple tree is enchanted, and that eating its fruit can show you the future. But no one foresaw how two very different sisters would spring from the same family roots.

Claire has never let go of her connection to family and lives alone in the old Waverley home, running a successful catering company and using ingredients from her magical garden.

It has been ten years since Sydney Waverley abandoned the family she was so ashamed of, and now she’s back–with a daughter and a suitcase packed with secrets. Healing the wounds of the past will take more than Claire’s potent hyacinth wine, but the two sisters soon realize that they’re more alike than either could have imagined.

From a bright new author in fiction, Garden Spells is a tale about how the strength of family ties can be as inexplicable as magic itself. The following questions are intended to enhance your discussion of this captivating novel.

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Foreword

1. Could you be persuaded that certain plants have powers, as Claire describes and uses them? If you believed you possessed the magical powers that Claire has inherited, how would you use them? What’s the first thing you would do?

2. Which of the sisters resonates with you personally? Claire believes everything–everyone–is temporary. She clings to home and makes herself content. Sydney’s philosophy is “you can’t hold on to everything,” and so has a history of very temporary, noncommittal relationships. Are their outlooks two sides of the same coin? What is the nature of the shift that occurs for each of them?

3. Sydney does what she feels she has to do in running with her daughter. What is your reaction to her dilemma, and her choice?

4. Sydney uses her birth name, Waverley, when she returns to her hometown, after hating the name all her life; she even gives her own daughter the Waverley surname. Why do you think she does this?

5. Do you relate to Emma’s passion for Hunter John? Is it possible for someone else to manipulate personal circumstances as Emma and her mother do?

6. How do you explain Claire’s attraction-repulsion to Tyler? Why do you think Claire sees violet sparks hovering around him the first time she meets him? What makes her eventually realize they are destined to be together?

7. Do you think a child can have the kind of insight and sensitivity that Bay demonstrates? Could a man have it? If not, why?

8. The four Waverley women in this novel (Claire, Sydney, Bay, Evanelle) have special gifts. Which of the four gifts would you like to have yourself? Why?

9. Fredobserves, “You are who you are, whether you like it or not, so why not like it?” How does this statement relate to the different characters in the book?

10. Claire thinks, “When you tell a secret to someone, embarrassing or not, it forms a connection. That person means something to you simply by virtue of what he knows.” Do you agree with this? Can a secret be a positive thing? A negative thing?

11. Which character changes the most over the course of the book? What does he or she learn? What had to take place in order for this to happen?

12. Do you consider this to be a “southern” novel? Besides its setting, what characteristics make it so?

13. If you knew that biting into a Waverley apple would reveal your future… would you bite? Why or why not?

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Reading Group Guide

The Waverleys are a curious family to the townspeople of Bascom, North Carolina. Legend has it that their feisty apple tree is enchanted, and that eating its fruit can show you the future. But no one foresaw how two very different sisters would spring from the same family roots.

Claire has never let go of her connection to family and lives alone in the old Waverley home, running a successful catering company and using ingredients from her magical garden.

It has been ten years since Sydney Waverley abandoned the family she was so ashamed of, and now she’s back–with a daughter and a suitcase packed with secrets. Healing the wounds of the past will take more than Claire’s potent hyacinth wine, but the two sisters soon realize that they’re more alike than either could have imagined.

From a bright new author in fiction, Garden Spells is a tale about how the strength of family ties can be as inexplicable as magic itself. The following questions are intended to enhance your discussion of this captivating novel.

Read More Show Less

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 2556 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 6, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    ENCHANTING!

    Garden Spells is the story of four Waverley women, Evanelle, Claire, Sydney, and Bay, as they learn to be comfortable with their special gifts. The Waverley women have always been considered odd, with their powers, and the very strange tree which grows in their garden.

    The strong characters pull the reader in quickly with the feeling that magic is alive and well and not strange. Full of humor and intense feelings, this is a beautifully written novel that's going to linger in the readers psyche for some time.

    25 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    MAGICAL

    Magical story with a predictable plot, minimal conflict, some comical antagonists, simplistic characters, an an unbelievable happy ever after: this book has little depth and, on a technical level, not much to offer. In fact, Claire's homeless past and Sydney's abusive boyfriend are almost red herrings, foreshadowing conflicts that never quite arrive. Instead, this book is about self-discovery and love with perfect endings, containing impossible magic. It's set in a small town where the biggest conflict is a foolish family feud. There is no complexity, no hidden meaning or intelligent depth, and readers expecting it will be disappointed.<BR/>Garden Spells is fluff. Accept that the book is little more than escapism, and it actually becomes quite a fun read. There's something enjoyable and uplifting about uncomplicated self-discovery and romance, and the magic--unbelievable as it is--is colorful and entertaining. The conflicts of the small town remain vaguely irritating (and mildly sexist), but they're comical as well. So, while the book is simple and unmemorable, it's pure escapism which is surprisingly fun to read. I wasn't blown away by this book and I'll never reread it, but I enjoyed it much more than I expected I would. Exaggerated as it is, I like the magic. There's something oddly enduring about a playful apple tree with prophetic fruit, or the ability to influence memory or emotion by baking with the right edible flowers. All told, I recommend this book only moderately, and only to the reader looking for a lighthearted bit of escapism. It's a good book to borrow, because it won't stand up to rereads. But if you want simple fantasy and fun with a colorful twist, Garden Spells might be a good choice for an empty afternoon.

    22 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Small town USA has Magic Apples!

    I loved this book. Normally I can't get into a what I think is a romance book, but Garden Spells was more than that. It had a great plot and wonderful sub-plots within the story. I loved the characters. And as I live in a rural small town community, I could so relate to the storyline and characters. I found myself laughing as I recalled those I know in my own little small town to characters with similar traits or bearing within the story. This book tells a story of what it is we call home, why we can't wait to get away from it, and the comfort in the reasons we always want to go back. Home has the magic of family. There is a special magic in small towns, and the town of this story is no different. There is drama, controversy, romance, of course magic and even a little humor (lots of humor if you happen to live in a small town rural area yourself.

    15 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2010

    Didn't like it

    This book reminded me of Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. It was bordering on plagarism. All the major plotlines are similar in some way to a major plotline in that book. And Practical Magic was better written.

    10 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 26, 2009

    Good writing, but the plot is a rip off

    I was very excited to read this book, and heard wonderful reviews, and then I read it. And the whole time I was reading it it sounded just like a certain movie which happens to be one of my favorites... And suddenly Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman were the main characters! The story and characters are such a cheap rip off of the move Practical Magic it isn't even funny. Two sisters born into a family who is "different" and known for witchcraft. And resented for it. One sister leaves to escape her past, the other stays and starts selling magical herbs. They live in a weird old house in a small town on the East coast. Need I continue? I couldn't believe how entirely the plot was ripped off from that. This book was published in 2008, and that movie came out years ago, possibly based on a book before that. I don't know at what point copyrights are infringed upon, but this book is just Practical Magic with new names and a different town.

    10 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2008

    Terribly Dissapointing

    Gosh I don't even know where to begin. I bought this book because of the great reviews but I found it to be a very dull read. The storyline is very superficial and her writing is at best mediocre. I only finished it because I have bought it. I would not recommend this to anyone.

    10 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2007

    Sounds Familiar

    I'm surprised that this was a recommended book.This story is so similar to Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic it's almost like reading a book report about Hoffman's book. It was basically the same story with a few changes but not written nearly as well. As an avid reader I was very disappointed.

    9 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Magical realism at it's best.

    This is Sarah Addison Allen's first novel, and I can see why she was published. As much as I loved The Sugar Queen, I think this might have been a tad better. A bit more delicious, if you will.

    Claire Waverley is a caterer who works with the edible flowers that grow in her mysteriously enchanted garden. Her flowers affect people in different ways, and it's her Waverley talent that she knows them and how to put them into delectable dishes for the best effects. All Waverley's have a talent, which is why the town of Bascom, North Carolina generally tries to avoid socializing with them. But they can't resist Claire's food, and if her older cousin Evanelle gives you a gift? Then you'd best keep it close, you never know when you might need a melon slicer or a couple of quarters.

    Sydney is Claire's estranged sister, whose return to Bascom shakes things up for the quiet town, and disturbs Claire's delicately assembled routine and way of life. Claire is forced to let people in, Sydney and her daughter Bay amongst others; and Sydney is forced to put down roots. All while purple sparks follow the men in love with them, and apples rain down from the ancient apple tree with "issues." Bread toasts itself, thunder clouds signal bad times ahead, and one bite of a piece of fruit can show you the most important event of your life, for better or worse. The are the Waverley's.

    Sarah Addison Allen has created a fabulous story, at times fascinating and magical, but suspenseful as well. We can sense the feelings in the air that unease Claire, we know why Sydney is anxious, and Bay is nervous, and the apple tree shivers. The tension builds to a crescendo and I was squeezing the book wide-eyed and breathless. The ending leaves you happy and satisfied, and it's a good thing for us that her third book is released in March.

    I give Garden Spells 5 stars. It is magical realism at it's best: a dash of a love story, a bit of excitement, a pinch of sensuality, and a flutter of the unexplainable.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Couldn't put it down!!!

    This book was incredible!! Its been a long time since I have found a great book that I couldn't put down. I downloaded it last week, and the only reason I stopped reading it temporarily was because the battery on my Nook died, and I had homework that I should've been doing, but wasn't because finishing I was reading. I had to force myself not to charge my Nook until my homework was finished - getting to continue reading Garden Spells was my reward :)!!

    It is a very quick read! A wonderful, WONDERFUL story! A perfect summer read!!! I am truly devastated that it's over, the book that is!! I want to reread it again!!!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Loved Loved Loved This Book

    Refreshing from beginning to end. Unaware of my surroundings while I read this book. I loved the characters, their personalities, their quirkiness and their love for one another. I was able to cast the characters in my mind with my favorite actresses and actors as I read. I wish I had an Evanelle in my life; or maybe not! The book was the essence of a little Practical Magic and a little Steel Magnolias. Claire and Sydney are both very strong women with an advantage that most women do not have-a little bit of magic in their backyard. If only magic was real to warn us of bad things headed our way or prepare us for what we really want and need most to feel whole inside.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    ENCHANTING! ENJOYED!

    Charming and unique, never a dull moment, this adult fairy tale is the story of Claire and Sydney Waverley, very special sisters who have been estranged for a very long time. It is a special blend of magic without being silly. ENCHANTING! ENJOYED!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2010

    Sparkles with magic.

    Garden Spells is one of my favorite books. I even had to upgrade my paperback for a hardcover. When I read it I can feel the vibrancy of the colors in the story. The magic would literally sparkle across my imagination as I read it. Anyone looking for a book to sweep you away and/or help you believe that maybe things will work themselves out in the end should give Garden Spells a try.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Magical realism at it's best.

    This is Sarah Addison Allen's first novel, and I can see why she was published. As much as I loved The Sugar Queen, I think this might have been a tad better. A bit more delicious, if you will.

    Claire Waverley is a caterer who works with the edible flowers that grow in her mysteriously enchanted garden. Her flowers affect people in different ways, and it's her Waverley talent that she knows them and how to put them into delectable dishes for the best effects. All Waverley's have a talent, which is why the town of Bascom, North Carolina generally tries to avoid socializing with them. But they can't resist Claire's food, and if her older cousin Evanelle gives you a gift? Then you'd best keep it close, you never know when you might need a melon slicer or a couple of quarters.

    Sydney is Claire's estranged sister, whose return to Bascom shakes things up for the quiet town, and disturbs Claire's delicately assembled routine and way of life. Claire is forced to let people in, Sydney and her daughter Bay amongst others; and Sydney is forced to put down roots. All while purple sparks follow the men in love with them, and apples rain down from the ancient apple tree with "issues." Bread toasts itself, thunder clouds signal bad times ahead, and one bite of a piece of fruit can show you the most important event of your life, for better or worse. The are the Waverley's.

    Sarah Addison Allen has created a fabulous story, at times fascinating and magical, but suspenseful as well. We can sense the feelings in the air that unease Claire, we know why Sydney is anxious, and Bay is nervous, and the apple tree shivers. The tension builds to a crescendo and I was squeezing the book wide-eyed and breathless. The ending leaves you happy and satisfied, and it's a good thing for us that her third book is released in March.

    I give Garden Spells 5 stars. It is magical realism at it's best: a dash of a love story, a bit of excitement, a pinch of sensuality, and a flutter of the unexplainable.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2009

    Magical turned Awful!

    I was so disappointed in this book. I bought it after reading all of the reviews about it. Also Barnes and Noble listed it as a recommended book. It started off magical but then went off the track and never seemed to get back on. I totally wasted my time and I cannot figure out what the hype is all about. I was actually shocked that Barnes and Noble listed this as one of their recommended books. There are so many others that are better.

    3 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2009

    My favorite book.

    Touching and captivating. Draws you in and does not let go. I have read this book numerous times. Sometimes I read it in one sitting and sometimes I make it last a few days so I get to stay in Allen's world just a bit longer. Beautiful story.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 25, 2009

    Garden Spells

    I loved this book! It is excellent reading, good story and whimsical in its own way. I would recommend this book in a heartbeat. I can't wait to read her next book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2009

    Enchanting

    This book was absolutely fabulous! I bought it because it was on the Barnes and Noble suggested reading list. I had a really hard time putting it down. I found myself drawn into the lives of the characters. It was interesting to see a witching family with different abilities besides just spells and chants!

    I can't wait to read more from this fascinating author!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2007

    Sleeping Potion

    I'm sorry, but this read was exceedingly below expectations and succeeded in doing little more than boring me to sleep. There is nothing here that has not been said before, and better.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Charming!

    The characters are elegantly complex and endearing. I found myself wishing heavily that I were Southern. Highly recommend this book!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Don't bother . . .

    After reading reviews and description I was looking forward to a nice little read, but was disappointed in the first few pages. A third grade kid could write a report on "The Life of a Doorknob" and interest me more and write in a much more literate manner. The writing technique in this book is childish and on a par with my old first grade reading book, "Look Jane. See Spot Jump!"

    2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 2556 Customer Reviews

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