Garden Spells – Sarah Addison Allen
Hodder & Stoughton, 2007
All Claire Waverley wants is for things to stay the same. When her wild younger sister Sydney escaped their small town ten years ago, Claire remained, living in their late grandmother’s house where generations of Waverleys have lived before her, working in its legendary gardens and dealing subtle magics through her catering company. She is treated with wary respect by the locals, but never real friendship, and that is the way she likes it. Her inquisitive new neighbour Tyler is the first threat to her hard-won stability and is soon followed by the unexpected return of Sydney, fleeing a dangerously destructive relationship with her young daughter Bay. Things are about to change, whether Claire wants it or not. The question is, will even the legacy of the Waverleys be enough to keep her family safe?
It has always seemed appropriate to me to find magic in a garden and I have a particular soft spot for the mythology of herbs, so it’s hardly surprising I enjoyed this book. Admittedly, reading about the social hierarchy of a small town in the American south felt stranger at times than reading about an alien planet. Australians don’t really do class. The setting was well chosen, however, for a story about the complications of family ties. Garden Spells is strong, sincere and well-told, with relatably flawed characters and a troublemaking apple tree. If you like Jael McHenry’s The Kitchen Daughter or Tanya Huff’s The Enchantment Emporium – or for that matter, edible flowers – this book is definitely worth a read.