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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