While I was presenting a readers’ advisory pre-conference with two of the best RA gurus around (Lucy & Kaite), they both sighed the reader’s sigh-you know the one-where you loved a book so much you wish you could read it again just thinking about it. The book they were sighing over was Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and I begrudgingly wrote the title down and put it on hold. That was the beginning of my love affair with Sarah Addison Allen’s writing.
This tome is a little shorter than her first two books and with the delay in publishing I am sure there is a story. Regardless, the storyline focuses on two main characters Emily Benedict, a 17-yr old who has come to Mullaby NC for the first time after the death of her mother and Julia, who escaped Mullaby in high school and is on a two-year plan to make a profit with her father’s BBQ restaurant and escape once again. Emily is struggling to learn about her mother’s past in Mullaby with a gentle giant of a grandfather that is none to pleased to share her secrets. Julia is struggling with her own past and the events she had little control over growing up. Throw in a little magic and a town that is as quirky as the residents mixed with a gentle southern humor and answers are bound to be discovered.
The main appeal in all of Allen’s books is the depth of the characters and how well their growth is developed into the story. You can imagine sitting in a porch swing listening to someone you love telling you the story in such a way you can’t wait to hear how it ends. The characters are flawed and human but in the end love prevails over everything like a soft blanket and a cup of chamomile on a cold and rainy day. 2010, 269 pages.
Reading this book I am instantly transported to my grandfather’s family who we often visited in North Carolina on the way to the beach. I can instantly smell the salty water and remember my shock that there was BBQ that wasn’t red in nature and my double shock at the taste. I smile as my great-aunt Carol’s gentle Carolina drawl drifts around my head and my older cousins become the big brothers and sisters I’ve never had-if only for the week we spend together. Bliss.