*Starred Review* Take a pinch of marigold to stimulate affection, add a dash of snapdragon to repel evil influences, finish with a generous helping of rose petals to encourage love, then stand back and let nature take its course. It may be the recipe for Claire Waverley's successful catering business, but when it comes to working its magic on her own love life, she seems to be immune to the charms found only in the plants that have always grown behind the Waverley mansion. Like generations of Waverley women before her, Claire has accepted her family's mysterious gifts, while her estranged sister, Sydney, could not run away from them fast enough. Knowing it's just a matter of time before her abusive boyfriend finally kills her, however, Sydney escapes with her young daughter back home to the only place she knows she'll be safe. Spellbindingly charming, Allen's impressively accomplished debut novel will bewitch fans of Alice Hoffman and Laura Esquivel, as her entrancing brand of magic realism nimbly blends the evanescent desires of hopeless romantics with the inherent wariness of those who have been hurt once too often. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.Review by Library Journal Reviews
Two mysteriously gifted sisters deal with abandonment by their mother in very different ways in this novel by Allen (The Girl Who Chased the Moon; The Sugar Queen): Sydney runs far away to find adventure while Claire sticks close to home, unwilling to open up to the world around her. When Sydney unexpectedly returns, both sisters find healing and joy in rediscovering the magic that lives within them. VERDICT Self-discovery with a touch of magic can always make for a great summer read. [Page 97]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.Review by Library Journal Reviews
The real magic suffusing Bascomb, NC, emanates from the Waverly household, where Claire is about to discover love. A big debut; reading group guide. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.Review by Library Journal Reviews
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. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/07.]—Rebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights [Page 72]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.Review by Library Journal Reviews
Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells (Bantam. 2007. ISBN 978-0-553-80548-2. $20), an enchanting story of two sisters, a magic apple tree, and sweet spells, took top women's fiction honors. The Waverly clan have long been known in Bascom, NC, for their special talents, but when Claire and her sister run into men too charming to ignore, love's magical effects, with the help of an interfering apple tree, manifest themselves in surprising and delightful ways. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.Review by Library Journal Reviews
The subtle enchantments of Holly's grandmother are full blown in Allen's charming and generous novel of family, love, and magic. Like Senate, Allen focuses on women discovering their path and maintains a pace that allows readers to sink into the story and linger. Also like Senate, Allen's novel is full of rich detail, almost dripping with descriptions of plants, magic, and various edible concoctions. In Bascom, NC, the Waverley women have a certain reputation. Some generations have fled from the notoriety, but Claire has stayed and runs a catering business in which everything she makes has particular effects. When her sister and niece re-enter her life (each with her own magical abilities) and a new neighbor moves next door, Claire's world, so seemingly settled, changes in ways both delicious and unnerving. - Neal Wyatt, "RA Crossroads," Booksmack! 2/3/11 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews
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. (Aug.) [Page 36]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
A successful caterer in Bascomb, North Carolina, Claire has always remained tied to the long and magical legacy of the Waverly family, until her peaceful life is transformed by Tyler Hughes, an art teacher and new next-door neighbor, and by the return of her prodigal sister, Sydney, who has arrived with her five-year-old daughter, Bay. Reprint. 150,000 first printing.Review by Publisher Summary 2
A successful caterer in Bascomb, North Carolina, Claire has always remained tied to the legacy of the Waverly family, until her peaceful life is transformed by Tyler Hughes, an art teacher and new next-door neighbor, and by the return of her prodigal sister, Sydney.Review by Publisher Summary 3
In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it. . . .The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants—from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys—except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down—along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy—if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom—or with each other.Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own. . . .