Throwback Thursday Bingo Square.
Goodreads tells me I first read Garden Spells in 2010. (Or maybe that’s when I first signed up for Goodreads, who knows?) Either way, it was a while back. But I’ve been in transition again (in two houses, in different rooms now in each house), so I’ve been moving a lot of my things, packing others up for storage and (painfully) whittling back my bookcases, for space reasons, and the “keeper book” criteria was as stringent as I could manage (which is to say, not exceptionally stringent.) Still, when I picked up Garden Spells in my sorting frenzy, I immediately added it to the “you should re-read this ASAP” pile, from which it eventually migrated into being my pocketbook-book, the book I pull out on The Ride, or when I’m stranded in doctor’s waiting rooms for endless hours. Since those things happen with unfortunate frequency, I managed to float my way through this book rather quickly, and I’m kinda sad it’s over. (Although Goodreads has also informed me that there’s a sequel I knew nothing about, so make space, shelves!)
The thing about Garden Spells is that it’s got a real Practical Magic type of vibe, and that is so my vibe that I can’t even explain. Witchy women, and complicated sisterly relationships? You might as well serve it up to me on a silver platter. And while Practical Magic is certainly more well known than this tragically lesser read cousin, that’s a situation that should be remedied immediately. Certainly sisters Clair and Sydney Waverly are worth getting to know, not to mention their cousin (who just has to hand people random things that will somehow come in handy for them later), Sydney’s daughter (who’s been longing for the home she and her mother found with her aunt, and to finally feel where she fits in), the other inhabitants of the small North Carolina town they live in (including some pretty hot dating interests, some high school frenemies who need to get with the program and various other peculiar characters), and, of course, a dastardly ex who has no idea who he’s dealing with. They’re all worth the read, for all their particular quirks – the way that Clair glowers at their apple tree as it throws its apples at passersby; the way that Sydney evolves over the course of the book into a someone who’s not just looking for an escape, but for connections; the man next door who has just come to town and is trying to figure out what’s different about the women he lives next to, and how he can somehow get into their lives, or get them into his.
I also really appreciate a book where the characters – adults, with whole lives and jobs and relationships and everything – are still so confused about what the hell they are supposed to be doing, or how they are supposed to be doing it. Because being an adult is Really. Really. Hard. And I know that there are people out there who’ve got it all figured out, who understand how to run their lives and not mess up their kids and make their own bread and never accidentally forget to mail the very important form in on time. But I don’t know those people, in my real life. I certainly am not one of those people myself. So I appreciate characters who don’t automatically know what their husband is thinking when his high school girlfriend shows up out of the blue, or who love their sisters but don’t have any idea how to relate to someone they haven’t seen in 10 years. It’s just such a genuine story, that I even when there’s magic and mystical things happening, it still feels real.
The way Addison Allen writes is so… soothing? Smooth? I’m not sure exactly what the precise word I want here is, but it’s just such a welcoming book. The tone of the story, as it unfolds and all the characters open up to each other, is somehow mirrored through the author’s writing style, so that I as a reader also feel like they’re opening up to me, welcoming me into the fold, letting me in on all the secrets of lifetimes and generations. Of magic and mysteries and hopes and dreams. I’m kind of jealous of how she manages to do that, to be honest with you. But this book stays on the keeper shelf for sure, and I recommend it for you, if you like yourself some kitchen witches with chips on their shoulders or baby witches discovering they’re stronger than they thought they were.