Friday, June 27, 2014

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen: DNF

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Published April 2008 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: my audiobook copy purchased at my local library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
he Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants—from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys—except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down—along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy—if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom—or with each other.

My Thoughts:
I know there are a lot of Sarah Addison Allen fans out there. After reading one of her books and giving this one a shot, I'm sorry to say I'm not one of them. You all know how rare it is for me to give up on a book but after listening to three of seven discs of this audio book, I pulled the plug.

I struggle with magical realism in any book. It's hard for me to suspend disbelief and buy into plants with magical properties and a family with special gifts. But I can with the right book in my hands (Chocolat by Joanne Harris, for example) where the characters are well developed and the story line is unique. There was nothing particularly interesting or unique in Garden Spells for me and the characters felt one-dimensional.

There's an interesting review of Garden Spells on As I started reading it, I had to keep looking back to the four-star rating and title, "Magical." There appeared to be nothing the reviewer liked about this book until you got halfway through the review when the reviewer basically said "if you can get by all of that, this book is fun." I couldn't as far as I read and I wasn't willing to give it any more of my time. I'd be interested to hear by Allen's fans thought of this one.


  1. I can understand your dilemma. I also have a problem with the magic element! time travel also was a problem but I seem to have gone over that block.

  2. I've been wanting to read this for awhile and I'm definitely sorry to hear it didn't work for you. I"m okay with magical realism done well but it's concerning that you found the characters 1 dimensional. I'll still read try this one but I'll definitely go in with my expectations lowered a little!

  3. Awww, sorry this one tanked for ya!

  4. I felt exactly the same as you. I tried to read it-- I really did.

  5. I had to laugh at the comment you quoted from the other review who gave Garden Spells four stars. "If you can get by all of that, this book is fun", well, that's pretty much how I felt about a book I read recently (a different one by another author). It didn't get a four star rating from me. I'm sorry this one didn't work for you. It's one I want to read at some point. I've yet to read anything by the author.

  6. Oh no! I count myself as a fan. But hey - not all books can agree with all.