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Garden Spells (Allen) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews 
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. Everyone in town knows about the garden—it's legendary—but few have ever stepped inside....
A LitLovers LitPick  (Feb. '08)


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.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred reveiw.) 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 . With enough grassroots buzz, Allen's mainstream debut (she's published romances under the nom de plume Katie Gallagher) could become a best seller. This captivating concoction, which has strong fairytale elements, is set in a small town in western North Carolina. The Waverley women have always had unusual talents, and newly reconciled half sisters Claire (a caterer) and Sydney (a hairdresser) are no exception. Sydney's five-year-old daughter, Bay, has the gift of knowing where things belong. Their elder cousin, Evanelle, has the gift of anticipation, compelled blindly to give items whose value is later revealed. The Waverleys also have an old tree whose apples are so special that a locked fence encloses their garden. To reveal much more about this charming story of love, fate, and family would be to dilute its magic. 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. For any fiction collection.
Library Journal


(Starred review.) This captivating concoction, which has strong fairytale elements, is set in a small town in western North Carolina.... To reveal much more about this charming story of love, fate, and family would be to dilute its magic. 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. For any fiction collection.
Carol Haggas - Booklist




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