Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Review: Garden Spells

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

This is a story about two sisters in a small North Carolina town learning to get over their issues, conquer their fears and be happy. In addition to their personal demons, these sisters live with the stigma that their family is known to be different and a little weirder than most.

What actually is going on is that each member of the Waverly family has a gift that is difficult to explain. Claire is a caterer with such a gift in the kitchen and knowledge of flowers that she is able to influence moods, perceptions, and even some actions with her recipes. Sydney gives hair cuts that transform people to look their best and gives them the release, confidence and courage they need.

But my favorite character is their old cousin Evanelle, who magically knows what people need and is compelled to give it to them but offers no explanation. The items end up becoming useful in the future, and are very common mundane items like a lighter, sheets or even a phone number.

It wasn't difficult for me to suspend reality to accept these magical gifts or the magic apple tree in the backyard that throws apples that predicts either the best or worst moment of your life. What was difficult for me to accept was how quickly the characters got over their personal issues to all of a sudden, with a snap of fingers, be happy and fine with everything. An old nemesis doesn't suddenly realize that maybe she's been a bit insecure and call you when she figures out that some particular evil is after you. You don't wake up one day and take down all of the walls that you built around yourself. That stuff takes time, more time than the author gave her characters.

Garden Spells is a sweet story, an easy read. It was Allen's first novel and that was plainly evident. In the hands of a more capable writer, we would have had more flushed out characters and a deeper story with more layers to it.

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