18 reviews

Garden Spells
by Sarah Addison Allen

Published: 2007-08-28
Hardcover : 304 pages
15 members reading this now
51 clubs reading this now
25 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 16 of 18 members
In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary ...
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In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.…

The 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.

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own….

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Chapter One

Every smiley moon, without fail, Claire dreamed of her childhood. She always tried to stay awake those nights when the stars winked and the moon was just a cresting sliver smiling provocatively down at the world, the way pretty women on vintage billboards used to smile as they sold cigarettes and limeade. On those nights in the summer, Claire would garden by the light of the solar-powered footpath lamps, weeding and trimming the night bloomers-the moon vine and the angel's trumpet, the night jasmine and the flowering tobacco. These weren't a part of the Waverley legacy of edible flowers, but sleepless as she often was, Claire had added flowers to the garden to give her something to do at night when she was so wound up that frustration singed the edge of her nightgown and she set tiny fires with her fingertips. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. Could you be persuaded that certain plants have powers, as Claire describes and uses them? If you believed you possessed the magical powers that Claire has inherited, how would you use them? What’s the first thing you would do?

2. Which of the sisters resonates with you personally? Claire believes everything–everyone–is temporary. She clings to home and makes herself content. Sydney’s philosophy is “you can’t hold on to everything,” and so has a history of very temporary, noncommittal relationships. Are their outlooks two sides of the same coin? What is the nature of the shift that occurs for each of them?

3. Sydney does what she feels she has to do in running with her daughter. What is your reaction to her dilemma, and her choice?

4. Sydney uses her birth name, Waverley, when she returns to her hometown, after hating the name all her life; she even gives her own daughter the Waverley surname. Why do you think she does this?

5. Do you relate to Emma’s passion for Hunter John? Is it possible for someone else to manipulate personal circumstances as Emma and her mother do?

6. How do you explain Claire’s attraction-repulsion to Tyler? Why do you think Claire sees violet sparks hovering around him the first time she meets him? What makes her eventually realize they are destined to be together?

7. Do you think a child can have the kind of insight and sensitivity that Bay demonstrates? Could a man have it? If not, why?

8. The four Waverley women in this novel (Claire, Sydney, Bay, Evanelle) have special gifts. Which of the four gifts would you like to have yourself? Why?

9. Fred observes, “You are who you are, whether you like it or not, so why not like it?” How does this statement relate to the different characters in the book?

10. Claire thinks, “When you tell a secret to someone, embarrassing or not, it forms a connection. That person means something to you simply by virtue of what he knows.” Do you agree with this? Can a secret be a positive thing? A negative thing?

11. Which character changes the most over the course of the book? What does he or she learn? What had to take place in order for this to happen?

12. Do you consider this to be a “southern” novel? Besides its setting, what characteristics make it so?

13. If you knew that biting into a Waverley apple would reveal your future… would you bite? Why or why not?

Suggested by Members

Which Waverly sister did you most relate to, and why?
If you have a sister, did the relationship between the sisters speak to you at all?
Which magical power seemed the most interesting to you, and why?
by Burgo49 (see profile) 08/30/14

Do you think Sydney and Claires grandmother did them an injustice by not telling them about their mother?
by jwadleigh (see profile) 04/19/13

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Meredith M. (see profile) 03/24/23

  "Lovely Fantasy"by liz p. (see profile) 03/28/17

The Waverly family has always been a bit different. Claire makes things happen with the foods she cooks with ingredients from her garden. Evanelle has uncontrollable urges to give things to ... (read more)

  "Fun Read!"by Vicki D. (see profile) 02/03/16

This book was very entertaining. It was well written, and held my attention. I loved how "fast" the read was. It did not inspire a lot of discussion on our book club, but everyone agreed that they definitely... (read more)

  "The Garden Keeper"by Debra F. (see profile) 11/22/15

Excellent flowing story that keeps you wanting to read more.

by Sharon V. (see profile) 03/20/15

  "Garden Spells"by Carolyn R. (see profile) 02/21/15

I did like this book -- bit of whimsy and fantasy to it and if you don't mind this kind of story, its a good beach read. The Sequel FIRST FROST is ok, not quite as good

  "Great choice for your book club"by Mandy B. (see profile) 08/30/14

The book is a VERY quick read...but since there were a number of characters in the story, it may have been TOO quick since none seemed to be fully developed. Definitely an easy book to discuss a book... (read more)

  "Garden Spells "by Kaprece B. (see profile) 04/19/13

Well written ...fun quirky characters

  "Garden Spells "by Jacki W. (see profile) 04/19/13

  "Garden Spells"by Dawn S. (see profile) 11/19/12

Above all struggles in life there is always family. Sarah Addison Allen plant a wonderful story of two sisters seperated by choice brought back together by faith. I loved each character. They had depth,... (read more)

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