Oh, Smart Girls. Has it ever been a rough start to the year?! We packed up our house and moved a thousand miles away and that left me little time to read. Making matters more difficult was that I got stuck in a book I just didn't want to read. Has that ever happened to you? I was really trying, but when a book can sit on my bedside table for days at a time without calling to me, I just have to let it go. I always feel guilty about a DNF (did not finish), but I am working on that. I read because I love it and any book that puts a damper on that isn't worth my time.
And so I moved on to a favorite! I adore Sarah Addison Allen and her debut novel, Garden Spells, is my favorite. I read this one before I began SmartGirlsRead and so this will be my first review of it here. I was especially motivated to reread it because the sequel, First Frost, was just released and I wanted to study up before reading the newest one.
Garden Spells is set in small town Bascom, North Carolina, a town where everyone knows just about everyone and everything else; a town where everyone is living up to their own family type: ...Runions were talkers, and Plemmons were shifty, and Hopkins men always married older women. In this town, the Waverlys were always strange, but Claire's special gift is in the food she prepares with the flowers and herbs that grow in her garden.
The biscuits with lilac jelly, the lavender tea cookies, and the tea cakes made with nasturtium mayonnaise the Ladies Aid ordered for their meetings once a month gave them the ability to keep secrets. The fried dandelion buds over marigold-petal rice, stuffed pumpkin blossoms, and rose-hip soup ensured that your company would notice only the beauty of your home and never the flaws. Anise hyssop honey butter on toast, angelica candy, and cupcakes with crystallized pansies made children thoughtful. Honeysuckle wine served on the Fourth of July gave you the ability to see in the dark. The nutty flavor of the dip made from hyacinth bulbs made you feel moody and think of the past, and the salads made with chicory and mint had you believing that something good was about to happen, whether it was true or not.
I adore this book. I love the magic in Sarah Addison Allen's books and this one has buckets of it. Along with Claire's magical catering, there is her elderly cousin Evanelle who has to give strange things such as bandages, lighters, Pop Tarts or quarters to people. She doesn't know why she has to give them away, but an urge will overcome her that cannot be ignored. The recipients of these gifts are always as confused as she is, but before long they realize that these things are exactly what they need. When Claire's estranged sister returns to town after a decade's absence, the magic only continues to spread.
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is light and fun and full of whimsy. It was exactly what I needed to get me out of my reading funk. I have already begun the sequel and I can't wait to see how it compares.
Thanks for your patience, Smart Girls. I'm back!