Garden Spells (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch

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Garden Spells
Sarah Addison Allen, 2007
304 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
February 2008

This is a sweet book—pretty thin, even predictable. But if you're worn down by tackling dense, darker works, this may be the tonic you need.

Garden Spells offers an easy introduction to magical realism. Claire Waverly has a secret garden in which she grows flowers and herbs for her catering business. Of course, like all best kept secrets, everyone in town knows about the garden—it's legendary—though few have ever stepped foot inside.

Claire won't allow visitors because of her apple tree—the centerpiece of the garden. It is enchanted thing, pitching apples at characters to entice them to take a bite. (Adam & Eve?) But if one does take a bit...well, that's the story.

The tree, a character in its own right, is like a recalcitrant pet. Here's a scene in which Claire and her sister Sydney have set up a table in the garden for a dinner party:

[The tree] had actually gotten a branch wrapped around one of the table legs and was trying to pull it nearer. "Psst," [Sydney] whispered .... Stop that." The table stopped moving and and the tree's branches bounced back into place. It stilled immediately, as if to say I wasn't doing anything.

The plot has revolves around two sisters who must work to put their past behind them before they can move forward. There's love and jealousy and even a villain or two. Yes, it sounds sappy, I know. But sappy feels nice sometimes, and it was hard not to like this book.

The only problem is I'm not certain the book will stimulate a vibrant discussion—it's engaging, but just not that deep. On the other hand, maybe you all need a break from each other...something simply to enjoy and make you smile.

See our Reading Guide for Garden Spells.

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