Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen: A rediscovery of sisterhood and magic

Two sisters grappling about their magical heritage, seeking acceptance from the other inhabitants of their small town. After years apart, they reunite, discover and appreciate their true selves while coming to terms with their past and win true love in the process.

In Sarah Addison Allen’s debut novel Garden Spells, magical realism, heartwarming romance and small-town sensibility combine to bring to life the warm and engaging story of sisters Claire and Sidney Waverly. Brought back to their ancestral house in Bascom, North Carolina by their mother after a life on the road, they grew up feeling isolated from their neighbors.

Claire, the older and “plainer” sister, took comfort in her magical talent with plants and cooking and builds a successful career as a caterer.

  • Sidney, on the other hand was seemingly blessed with beauty but without magical talent. She ran away and lived a life on the road until she returns with her daughter trying to escape an abusive relationship.
  • Together with their elderly cousin, Evanelle, their love interests, their supportive neighbors, their town rivals, and with the help of the enchanted apple tree that their family has been tending for centuries, the sisters discover their innate powers and their place in their small town.

    The book’s style and structure bear similarities to other works in women’s literature that feature magical realism. With Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, it shares the plot element of two very different sisters reuniting and finding love in their small town after years apart. Like Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, on the other hand, it features the effects of food on people susceptible to magical ingredients.

    I picked up this book during a booksale two years ago and only found time to read it when I brought it with me on a trip. I find the book’s humor and homey feel very endearing, and its lesson on self-acceptance quite relevant. This book is a great for a bit of light and easy reading.

    I look forward to reading Addison’s recently released sequel titled First Frost set a few years after Garden Spells. In this novel, the Waverly girls have grown into their magical abilities while facing their daily struggles. One day, an unexpected stranger appears in their little town with a sinister intent.

    Other works by Sarah Addison Allen include:

    Lost Lake. Sometimes you find the things you’ve lost in the most unexpected places. But sometimes you find them exactly where you left them. Welcome to magical Lost Lake, Georgia.

    The Girl Who Chased the Moon. Emily Benedict is about to find out if wallpaper can change pattern on its own, if a cake can bring back a lost love, and if there really is a ghost dancing in her back yard.

    The Sugar Queen. Imagine a world where the color red has startling powers and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. Welcome to snowy Bald Slope, North Carolina. There’s magic behind every closet door.

    The Peach Keeper. Welcome to Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.

    Waking Kate. Over a cup of butter coffee, Kate’s neighbor tells her a story of love and heartbreak that makes her remember her past, question her present, and wonder what the future will bring.

    The Firefly Dance. Addison anchors this anthology with her funny novella about Louise, a North Carolina girl whose keen observations of the lives around her weaves an unforgettable spell with just a hint of everyday magic.

    For more details or to buy any of these books on, simply click on the titles or the cover images.

    Book details taken from Sarah Addison Allen’s website and

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    Author: Gel Jose

    Manic Pixie Dream Girl Wannabe, Imagineer, Foodie, TV Addict and Lifelong Learner

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