Saturday, April 9, 2011

Garden Spells

This past Christmas my parents gifted me with the new Color Nook Book, an e-reader that Barnes and Noble has been promoting. Let me tell you, best. Present. Ever. Really, I took it with me to Europe, read magazines on it and read through some books. I can read samples of books before purchasing them and even share with other Nook readers.

When you're in a B&N with your Nook, you can read books for free for an hour and they also offer discounts in their Starbucks cafes. There are always sales, free downloads, and a ton of helpful suggestions based on your purchases right there on your Nook Book. 

OK. Sales pitch over. All I'm saying is I love this thing. I've taken it with me everywhere and I can actually carry a whole library with me. Awesome.

This past trip to Orlando, I downloaded a book called Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen. 

I'd seen this book pop up in suggested feed online, at the bookstore, and at book aisles in the grocery stores. Pretty much everywhere. When something comes into your path that many times, you figure you've got to give it a try. Verdict: I loved it!

This book takes place in Bascom, North Carolina where we meet two sisters, Claire and Sydney Waverly. These ladies are descendants of a peculiar blood line that posses unique qualities and talents (In case you're concerned, there is no witch craft or wizardry in this book.), 

Most of this family's unique traits spur from their glorious garden. It's as if everything about this family comes from the ground. The soil, the plants, the house, everything reacts to what happens to the family. Among the flowers and herbs that grow rampant in their backyard is a very special apple tree. It is rumored in town that eating the fruit of this tree will help you see the most extraordinary moment in your life. It's up the Waverly family to keep people from knowing their fate before it happens. The tree, however, has a mind of its own and constantly tempts people to find out their future. And no, none of the Waverly women are named "Eve." 

Much akin to the plot line of Practical Magic, one sister embraces her offbeat family tree while the other one resents it. Claire has used her talents to help build a thriving catering business in Bascom. Her thumb is about as green as they come and she has a sense of knowing exactly what to bake and cook using everything from her garden. What's interesting is the specific use behind every herb and edible flower she uses. Each item has a purpose whether it is keeping children thoughtful or helping to see in the dark, reliving good memories or discouraging new interests. 

Sydney, Claire's younger sister, returns to Bascom after a decade of running from her heritage. Her arrival brings a surprise with her five year old daughter, Bay. During her stay with Claire, Sydney finds strengths she never knew and an appreciation for her family roots. Reconnecting with each other pushes the sisters to move on from their fears and embrace destinies they've been avoiding.  Of course there are some love connections made, old ones revisited, and a dash of drama to keep an edge of peaked interest. 

I really liked the characters of this book and their quirky bits. Evanelle, the Waverly sisters' distant cousin, has a need to give people things. She hands out random items to people all the time because she has a sense that they will one day need that particular object. What's weird is people just accept it because it's part of the Waverly weirdness. Do you have folks like that in your town? 

I also loved how descriptive everything was in the book. Most of the detail was focused on the Waverly house and garden, which are key elements to the plot line. Every time I opened the book, I'd be drenched in sunlight and some sweet smelling floral scent on every page. I wish I could grow a garden like the one  the author created. More than that, I wish I could have a heavenly house like the Waverly manor! Old, historic, bright, warm and welcoming. To my imagination, it fits the description of my ideal home. 

The author created delicious recipes for Claire to make and I have no clue how plausible it is to make them, but I'm willing to try! Doesn't an almond butter and ginger jelly sandwich sound divine? Or lilac jelly and lavender cookies? No details in how they're made, but she included in the back of the book a list of the purposes for herb and flower. It's a romantic idea to eat whatever I grow in my bountiful garden until I'm reminded that bugs and lizards lurk in my backyard. I'm hoping maturity and old age will help me become more of a nature lover. For now I buy my veggies and herbs at Wal-Mart. 

It may not be the most thought provoking plot line, but it's a light summer read, perfect for kind of weather we're having right now. The story is sweet and if you have a sister, cousin, or friend you're close with, it's a nice reminder of how wonderful those family connections are. Grab a glass of tea, head for your back yard, and soak up the sweet story of Garden Spells


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