Lately I’ve been into non-fiction. Some of them have been uplifting and given me renewed hope in humanity–would that there were more Dr. Mutters in the world, right? How amazing that we can treat things with antibiotics!
However, some of them, although well written and fascinating, make me despair for humanity. The Devil in the White City‘s psychopathic murderer bummed me out, and I’m currently reading King Leopold’s Ghost, which is very good and also seriously so depressing. At the 50% mark, I needed a break. The public library apparently agreed, because Garden Spells was available on my hold list on that same day, like magic.
I enjoyed but was not blown away by the previous Allen book I read. Malin suggested Garden Spells, and I have to agree: this is a better book. In many ways, it felt like a second draft of The Girl Who Chased the Moon, because it had similar themes (returning home, high school dramaz, overcoming your family’s reputation in a small town, North Carolina, female friendship) but they were executed, I thought, much better.
In Bascom, North Carolina, families have destinies. Waverley women have magical talent tha tmanifest itself differently in each woman: Claire Waverly knows her magical botanicals; Evanelle knows what gifts people need before they need them. And Sydney Waverley, well–she tried to outrun her Waverley-ness, as her mother did before her, but ended up in an abusive relationship (but with an adorable daughter, Bay). She returns to her roots in Bascom and tries to find her place while staying under the radar so her jerk ex can’t find her. Claire and Sydney grow closer as sisters, help each other out, figure out how to be Waverleys, find love and romance, and overcome their histories. Bay finally finds the place she belongs and learns about her special gifts, too. It’s quite charming. And the magic is lovely, too: we’re not talking Gabriel Garcia Marquez here. The magic world-building is sold but fanciful enough to still be lighthearted.
The thing about this book that hooked me is that while I found the plot fairly predictable, I wanted to keep reading about the women even after the book ended. I was rooting for them all! The romances were sweet (well, except for the jerk ex) and refreshing. The women’s struggles seemed realistic. The pace was nice. The descriptions are vivid. The ending is happy.
It was just a nice drink of good sweet tea, is what I’m saying.
Rating: 4/5. Recommended for anyone who needs a break from reading about genocidal kings and/or psychopathic murderers.