Lost Lake – Sarah Addison Allen
Center Point Large Print, 2014
In the sleepy backwater of Suley, change has arrived and is not welcome. Unable to keep her beloved cabin resort open any longer, Eby Pim has finally agreed to sell the land at Lost Lake, but it’s not going to be easy. A trio of loyal guests descend for one final summer, confronting loose ends that have been left to trail for far too long. Meanwhile, Eby’s recently widowed great-niece Kate plunges into an impulsive road trip with her daughter Devin and returns to the last place she truly felt herself: Lost Lake, where she once made a friend and believed in the impossible. But is believing really enough to change an ending?
This is the latest of Sarah Addison Allen’s magic realism books set in the American south, where strange things just happen and explanations are thin on the ground. As with all her other books, it is sweet, sleepy and charming with a streak of quiet darkness. I wasn’t satisfied with where Wes’s story went, but most of the other characters were the kind of messed up loveable that Addison Allen does very well. Her other books include Garden Spells and The Girl Who Chased the Moon.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon – Sarah Addison Allen
Bantam Books, 2010
The small town of Mullaby is slow to change, slower still to reveal its secrets, but when Emily Benedict arrives in town shortly after the death of her mother Dulcie to live with the grandfather she has never met, she finds a place out of some strange Southern fairy tale, where a quiet giant broods in his empty house, a restless baker sends out an unspoken call with each cake she makes, and ghostly lights dance in the woods. Emily’s mother has not been forgotten here, and even in death, she is not forgiven. But what did she do, and why are the people of Mullaby so afraid Emily will do it all over again?
There is a gentle charm to Sarah Addison Allen’s style of writing, which is matter of fact but still with a whimsical softness. I like the way she weaves small magics into the day to day lives of her characters, to be lived with the same way they live with other loves and regrets. The resolution did not quite satisfy me, but the fantasy is fresh and makes for a light, enjoyable read.
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.