Call me crazy, but I've always loved magic. I'm fascinated by slight of hand illusionists, and as a scientist, I'll be the first to find something utterly inexplicable and throw up my hands with a sigh saying, "must be magic". Now, don't worry - I have a solid grip on fact and fiction, but I suppose I find life a little more entertaining if I can believe in magic. I think this is why I'm so enamored with author Sarah Addison Allen. Much like Joanne Harris (in Chocolat and The Girl with No Shadow), Allen takes on the genre of magical realism and tells an everyday story of life and love but infuses it with the whimsy of magic. As much as I adore high fantasy - with wizards, dragons, and elves - I almost enjoy these blendings of bringing mystical elements into everday life even more.
And of course, this book got me thinking about which magical ability I would most like to have. Claire is the caterer who can influence emotions through the dishes she serves; Sydney is a stylist who can give any person the perfect haircut; Evanelle gives people items before they know they need them; Bay knows where things and people belong. I think I would most like Claire's talent since I do enjoy cooking, I'm not much of a gardener, but I'd love to be able to creat some of the meals she created. (But I'd also love to know a Sydney since I don't cut or style my crazy mane as often as I should!) How about you?
Sarah Addison Allen weaves a delightful and enchanting story in her novel Garden Spells. In the town of Bascom, North Carolina, the Waverley family has always been a little extraordinary: from Claire who connects to the magical properties of the flowers and herbs she cooks into her catering business, to her cousin Evanelle who has a compulsion of giving gifts before the recipients know they need them, and not to mention the apple tree in the yard bearing prophetic fruit. Claire's younger sister Sydney never wanted to be associated with the odd family magic, but when she returns to Bascom with her daughter, she realizes that home and the magic of family might just be what she needs after life on the run.
I was truly captivated by this novel. After falling in love with The Sugar Queen earlier this year, I sat down to read a chapter or two of Garden Spells and finished the book before the day was over. Sarah Addison Allen is a wonderful storyteller and handles magical realism perfectly. She creates a dazzling story with realistic characters and relationships, adding just enough fantasy to make readers believe that maybe in a small North Carolina town, magic really does exist.
(And in case any SAA fans missed it, here's my review of The Sugar Queen from July.)