Enchanting. That’s how I would describe Sarah Addison Allen’s books about the Waverly family if I had to do it in one word. Both Garden Spells and First Frost charm us from page one. The Waverly women live in our world, but they’re different. They possess remarkable talents that set them apart from their neighbors in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina.
Claire is a successful caterer, but the recipes she’s learned from her grandmother produce edible delights that often have odd and sometimes life-changing effects on the people who eat them. Elderly cousin Evanelle finds herself compelled to give people things, never knowing why. Of course, the recipients always need Evanelle’s unlikely gifts, though they don’t know why at first. And the apple tree in the backyard throws its fruit to impart a message to those who eat it.
Even the name, Garden Spells, has a dreamy quality to it. The gardeners among us must smile when we think about planting seeds and watching them magically transform into gorgeous flowers or luscious vegetables. This first of the two novels involves the surprising return of Sydney Waverly and her young daughter, Bay, to the family homestead. Ultimately, Garden Spells is a love story…a tale of how Claire and Sydney reconcile and how each finds romantic love, ready or not.
If you finish Garden Spells, sad to say good-bye to these charming characters, no problem. The Waverlys return in First Frost. When a stranger arrives in town, he upsets the peaceful balance Claire and Sydney Waverly have achieved in their lives. The sisters, along with Evanelle and Bay, whose gift, by the way, is knowing where things belong, again use their special gifts to work their way through the challenges to their family brought on by the stranger’s story.
If you want a break from the harsh and often painful realities that surround us, Garden Spells and First Frost are the ticket. Don’t be surprised if you start wondering whether or not you have something in common with the Waverlys. Is that green thumb of yours just a learned skill, or a magical talent passed onto you from your mother, grandmother, and who knows how many generations before? When you phone a friend and she says, “I was just thinking about you?” is it a coincidence or your “gift”? When you miss the train that derails…just plain luck or evidence of your inherent intuitive powers? You decide.