This is a very sweet book about acceptance and friendship. Twig Fowler is a 12-year-old girl living in Sidwell, Massachusetts who doesn’t have any friends. That is not by choice, but her mother insists that they not visit other people, because then a reciprocal visit would be expected, and no one is to come to their house. Because they have a secret. The secret is Twig’s brother, James, who no one else knows exists. He is a secret because he has been hit with the family curse.
He doesn’t remain a secret for long, because the Fowler family has new neighbors. The Hall family moves into the house that has been in the family for years but has been abandoned. The family includes Julia, also twelve, who becomes friends with Twig, and Agate, who is pretty and sweet and a bit of a temptation for James. Once the Halls move in, James is not content to hide anymore. Oh, and the ancestor they inherited the house from was the jilted witch that cursed the Fowler family men. (To avoid spoilers, I won’t tell you what the curse does.)
Twig is desperate for a friend, but knows her mother would not be happy with her friendship with the family who cursed them. She tries to push Julia away, but Julia is from Brooklyn, and will have none of that nonsense. Julia says that if they can’t be friends, then they’ll be soul sisters instead! Technicalities for the win! Twig and Julia set out to reverse the curse so their siblings can be happy.
There is also a mystery involving a monster and graffiti in town, and as it is a small Massachusetts town, it’s a big deal. And someone wants to chop down the woods for houses and a shopping mall! Oh noes! And there are owls. Owls are always awesome, especially when they’re tiny.
So we have a story about making friends, overcoming differences, solving mysteries, learning about history, acceptance, and environmental awareness. Misunderstandings can create big problems, but things can be fixed, even if it seems impossible, and adults don’t always know what’s best. There’s a bit of magic as well. The magic is not overwhelming, which is nice. It’s a large part of the story, but with a few changes the story would still make sense without it. (Change the actual curse to “bad luck” or something, and the power of belief would make it work.) But I prefer the magic. The children all feel different for some reason, and they find themselves anyway. The story wraps up nicely with explanations for everything. Overall a lovely story from the author of Practical Magic. (Oh, and there’s a recipe for an apple pie that sounds awesome!)