Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Summary from the flap of the dust jacket, hard cover binding.

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. 

I've been seeing Garden Spells a lot preceding the words "comfort read" and at the time I read this, I was in need of comfort. And comfort me it did. 

I have always loved reading books set in a Southern State, with its distinct culture. It always brings with it a certain kind of charm but in this book, the the whole of Bascom, North Carolina, is eclipsed by the old Waverley house that has been with the family for generations. Magic seems to particularly happen in their garden. There's an apple tree that has a life of its own and throws prophetic fruit at people, herbs and flowers with certain magical properties thrive in this garden as well. The place is a mixture of the strange and the enchanting.

As to the characters, the Waverley sisters, Claire and Sydney, are complete opposites in so many ways. Claire is the serious, uptight one who thrives in routine. She has a gift of creating dishes using her mystical plants that can affect the person eating it. Perhaps make them seem more understanding, or passionate, or regretful etc. So she's the one who stayed in their old house and became Bascom's sought after caterer. Sydney on the other hand is the adventurous and sociable one. She is having difficulty accepting being a Waverley because she feels that being one means being a oddball. They both have romantic developments in the story. Claire and her struggle with abandonment issues with Tyler. And Sydney and her self-doubt seeming to get in the way with her relationship with Henry. I also have to mention a minor character which stood out for me, Evanelle Waverley, a distant relative, who happens to give people things they don't need but they will, eventually. I found her to be an added enjoyment in the story.

The story is like a daytime soap but with magic in it. There's gossiping, upstaging, dinner parties, family and friend drama, romance, and a teeny bit of suspense. Add in the Waverley women and their own magical skills and it's a wonderful recipe for a spell binding story. Speaking of recipes, all throughout the book one can find unusual food like dandelion quiche, lavender bread, violet white cake, and lemon verbena sorbet. Yum! It's making my mouth water just typing these things down so I'm going to stop myself now. All in all, it's a lovely, chah-ming read. 

Garden Spells is a SIBA Book Award Winner for Fiction, 2008 and my fourth entry to the Award Winning Books Reading Challenge hosted by Gathering Books.


  1. I love the way that you have woven your review together to cast a spell on the reader - I have a feeling that this is a book I will savor, relish, and enjoy. Times like these, I miss adult literature. :) Beautiful review, Tin. :)

    1. Thanks thanks! :D I know what you mean about missing certain genres. I try to mix in some adult literature in my YA and kid lit populated reading list from time to time. Sometimes I just get an itch for it. :)

      You are absolutely spot on with the words "savor" and "relish". I think you'll love this book Myra, especially if your a bit of a foodie.:)

  2. Garden Spells sounds like a delicious summer time read in a lawn chair with a glass of sweet tea! Thanks for the lovely review. Lavender bread - sounds yummy.

    1. Hi Joyce Ray! I'd love to recreate that picture you are painting and be in that lawn chair holding that cup of tea, perhaps with another Sarah Addison Allen book like Sugar Queen or Peach Keeper...and maybe lavender bread! :D

      Thanks for dropping by! :)

  3. Yay, glad you enjoyed reading Sarah Addison Allen's book! I'm a huge fan of her work but Garden Spells is still my favorite. All of them are charming books that make you feel like they're comfort reads. But make sure you're not hungry when you read them. :P

    1. Hi Chachic! I know what you mean. I read most of Garden Spells at night before going to bed and it never failed to make me get up and visit the kitchen. :)


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