Funny, I love this book, but honestly don't remember the last time I read it. After finishing "Garden Spells" I went and read book two in the Waverley family again so that was a nice and and two punch. Allen does magical realism very well. This book deals with a lot of serious issues, rape, abuse, bullying, and the eccentricities of a small but unusual southern town in North Carolina.
"Garden Spells" reunites estranged sisters, Claire and Sydney Waverley. Claire is single and alone making a go of her special catering business in Bascom, North Carolina. She has her whole world turned upside down when she meets a man, Tyler Hughes, who despite her best efforts is interested in her.
Sydney has left her abusive partner and taken her daughter Bay back home to Bascom. She has hated Bascom since she left it and never wanted to be one of the strange Waverley's. All she wanted to do was fit in. Still nursing heartbreak over the first boy she ever loved (and lost) Sydney starts to finally embrace being a Waverley.
The book focuses not just on Claire and Sydney though. We also have Allen including other characters as well, we follow Claire and Sydney's cousin Evanelle, Sydney's daughter Bay, an old friend (not really friend) of Sydney's, and even Tyler and a potential love interest for Sydney. Allen manages to juggle everyone and keep the plot moving forward. I didn't feel lost about who people were and how they were connected. We also got delicious little comments about which each family is famous for in this book and that was pretty cute.
The writing is magical realism at it's best. Allen makes you feel, smell, and even taste things. If you do things right, you can make the magical elements seem totally natural and Allen does. We hear about the Waverley family home, apple tree, and even how Claire's emotions affect things like having fog in the neighborhood.
The flow was very good and the setting of Bascom felt very real.
Great first book in the series.