Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Garden Spells - Sarah Addison Allen
While I don't think I could take a diet of it all the time, a little touch of magic realism in my reading can be a delight. Sarah Addison Allen's debut novel, Garden Spells is perfect in this regard. It's the story of two sisters reconnecting after ten years apart mixed in with a lovely dose of gentle magic.
I find it hard to write about this book as just talking about the plot doesn't capture to magical feeling of it and I'm not sure what else to say about it. This is a book about the characters and their innate magic and relationships with others and they are drawn with a deft hand. Organised, lonely Claire who is terrifed to reach out to others in case she is abandoned as her mother abandoned her years ago is the focus of the story, but the other characters share the spotlight with her. Her sister Sydney has returned to the family home after years away, running for an abusive partner and finally finds herself and her gift while her daughter, Bay (whose gift is to know where things "belong"), finds a place where she herself belongs. And linked inextricably with the sisters is the apple tree in the Waverly garden which tries desperately to guide their lives.
The side characters are also delightful, and of these Evanelle was probably my favourite. Her gift is to give people things they will need, but she never knows why or when. She finds herself with a house full of "stuff" so that she won't need to go looking for it and odd and difficult hours when the need to give someone something strikes her. How her gifts come to be used and the impact they have on the people around her is a lovely thread through the book.
I really liked this book and highly recommend it to someone looking for a light, but crisp and delightful story. It did remind me of Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic in places as the books have some of the same elements - estranged sisters with family magic, an abusive boyfriend and the magical realism element - but how they are used is totally diferent and both books are lovely in different ways (and Practical Magic the book is totally different from Practical Magic the movie in tone and emphasis) and I recommend both.
I have now requested Allen's second book, The Sugar Queen from the library and I'm looking foward to reading it. I'm also looking forward to her third book with the evocative title of The Girl Who Chased the Moon which is to be published in May next year.
Sarah Addison Allen