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....
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.)
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Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . The Apple Doesn't Fall Far ...
Posted December 14, 2009 by R. Hillyer , Millington, Tenn.I love this book. It sweeps you away into the story from the first sentence. I picked up a few free copies (didn't realize I had more than one) at a conference. After I read it (in one sitting) I promptly gave my extra two copies to friends and then went out and purchased four copies to send to other friends. Get read it. Buy more for friends. I'm not kidding!
This is the book I push on women browsing in bookstores. If they look like they are searching for that elusive read, I place this book in their hands and promise them they've found it. Yes, I'm the weird lady talking to people I don't know in bookstores (and the book aisle in Walmart) and I'm proud of it!
2 . Magical
Posted December 16, 2008 by Kathy , Cottonwood HeightsI loved this book. The book reminded me of Practical Magick the movie, in the sense that it was light. I loved the characters. The sisters and the aunt are so fun to read. I think Bay needed more--hopefully in another book their story will continue. I liked the ending, I think that it was appropriate. Allen leaves me wanting more from her. I can't wait to read her next book.
August 27, 2007
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Excerpt from Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Every smiley moon, without fail, Claire dreamed of her childhood. She always tried to stay awake those nights when the stars winked and the moon was just a cresting sliver smiling provocatively down at the world, the way pretty women on vintage billboards used to smile as they sold cigarettes and limeade. On those nights in the summer, Claire would garden by the light of the solar-powered footpath lamps, weeding and trimming the night bloomers-the moon vine and the angel's trumpet, the night jasmine and the flowering tobacco. These weren't a part of the Waverley legacy of edible flowers, but sleepless as she often was, Claire had added flowers to the garden to give her something to do at night when she was so wound up that frustration singed the edge of her nightgown and she set tiny fires with her fingertips.
What she dreamed of was always the same. Long roads like snakes with no tails. Sleeping in the car at night while her mother met men in bars and honky-tonks. Being a lookout while her mother stole shampoo and deodorant and lipstick and sometimes a candy bar for Claire at Shop-and-Gos around the Midwest. Then, just before she woke up, her sister, Sydney, always appeared in a halo of light. Lorelei held Sydney and ran to the Waverley home in Bascom, and the only reason Claire was able to go with them was because she was holding tight to her mother's leg and wouldn't let go.
That morning, when Claire woke up in the backyard garden, she tasted regret in her mouth. With a frown, she spit it out. She was sorry for the way she'd treated her sister as a child. But the six years of Claire's life before Sydney's arrival had been fraught with the constant fear of being caught, of being hurt, of not having enough food or gas or warm clothes for the winter. Her mother always came through but always at the last minute. Ultimately, they were never caught and Claire was never hurt and, when the first cold snap signaled the changing colors of the leaves, her mother magically produced blue mittens with white snowflakes on them and pink thermal underwear to wear under jeans and a cap with a droopy ball on top. That life on the run had been good enough for Claire, but Lorelei obviously thought Sydney deserved better, that Sydney deserved to be born with roots. And the small scared child in Claire hadn't been able to forgive her.
Picking up the clippers and the trowel from the ground beside her, she stood stiffly and walked in the dawning fog toward the shed. She suddenly stopped. She turned and looked around. The garden was quiet and damp, the temperamental apple tree at the back of the lot shivering slightly as if dreaming. Generations of Waverleys had tended this garden. Their history was in the soil, but so was their future. Something was about to happen, something the garden wasn't ready to tell her yet. She would have to keep a sharp eye out.
She went to the shed and carefully wiped the dew off the old tools and hung them on their places on the wall. She closed and locked the heavy gate door to the garden, then crossed the driveway at the back of the ostentatious Queen Anne-style home she'd inherited from her grandmother.
Claire entered the house through the back, stopping in the sunroom that had been turned into a drying and cleaning room for herbs and flowers. It smelled strongly of lavender and peppermint, like walking into a Christmas memory that didn't belong to her. She drew her dirty white nightgown over her head, balled it up, and walked naked into the house. It was going to be a busy day. She had a dinner party to cater that night, and it was the last Tuesday in May, so she had to deliver her end-of-the-month shipment of lilac and mint and rose-petal jellies and nasturtium and chive-blossom vinegars to the farmers' market and to the gourmet grocery store on the square, where the college kids from Orion College would hang out after classes.
There was a knock at the door as Claire was pulling her hair back with combs. She went downstairs in a white eyelet sundress, still barefooted. When she opened the door, she smiled at the fireplug of an old lady standing on the porch.
Evanelle Franklin was seventy-nine years old, looked like she was one hundred and twenty, yet still managed to walk a mile around the track at Orion five days a week. Evanelle was a distant relation, a second or third or fourteenth cousin, and she was the only other Waverley still living in Bascom. Claire stuck to her like static, needing to feel a connection to family after Sydney took off when she was eighteen and their grandmother died the same year.