Much to my delight, I received an advance copy of this novel from the publisher, St Martin’s Press, via NetGalley.com. I tried hard not to reveal any important details but it’s so hard to talk about this book without spilling beans.
I first discovered Sarah Addison Allen by accident. The Girl Who Chased the Moon was a freebie on Amazon. It looked like an easy read and at the time, anything free was good for me, I grabbed it up and started reading… and I just couldn’t stop. Magical, whimsical, light and delightful, my fingers just kept turning pages. I got to the end and I thought, “Well that was nice.” As is my habit when I find an author whose style I adore, I sought out her backlist and she quickly jumped onto my my AUTO ADD, MUST READ lists.
I’ve read every novel that Ms Allen has published and I feel like each is better than the last. All of her books have the slightest bit of magic, a touch of drama, but mostly center around warm and inviting southern towns and delectable food. To read an Allen novel is to get lost in rustic, friendly North Carolina for about four hours. I look forward to the trip every year.
One of the recurrent themes in Allen’s books is friendship and family. We first met the Waverleys in Garden Spells, one of my favorite Allen novels (though I say that about all of them). Returning to Bascom, North Carolina and the sisters Claire and Sydney feel like having a sit d0wn with a couple of old friends– catching up, meeting the new people in their lives. This story centers around Bay Waverley, Sydney’s daughter, who is so much unlike her mother (and so much like her aunt Claire) that Sydney sometimes wonders if the child is really hers. After fleeing an abusive husband and returning to Bascom, Sydney married the love of her life, childhood friend Henry. He adopted Bay, and they’re one big happy family, except for one thing. She wants to give Henry a son.
Claire has always been self sufficient, the rock that other Waverly’s hold onto. Her catering business has fallen by the wayside in favor of magical Waverly candies. There’s a line that says something really profound, that Claire making candies is like like having the most perfect chair in the most perfect room, but the chair being covered in the wrong fabric– it’s such a small detail that no one really seems to notice. Except Claire. She’s not completely happy, making candy all day and she worries about her daughter Moriah, who doesn’t seem to display any signs of the Waverly trait. She doesn’t have a gift.
Lingering over the Waverly women is the distant memory of Lorelei, their wayward and wild mother who left them with their Grandmother Mary, never to be seen again. There’s a legend that she ate an apple from the magical Waverly tree (Waverleys don’t ever eat the apples) and when you eat the apples from the tree, you see the biggest event in your life. Even if that event is your death.
Despite the magic and the gifts, Claire has always questioned whether she was authentically a Waverley– her business and her livelihood depend on her heritage. When a curious man is seen lurking about the house, appearing and disappearing at whim, he brings with him questions and suspicions about Lorelei and Claire. What if Claire wasn’t Lorelei’s child’? What if everything Claire has ever known about her life is a lie? What if she isn’t really a Waverly? And what about the notebooks that Grandmother Mary hid around the house, the ones with the blacked out entries? Are there answers hidden in them? What does it all mean?
Woven into this story of family relationships is a budding romance between Bay Waverley and a popular soccer player named Josh. It’s heart warming and cute to watch Bay in all her teenage awkwardness become close with a young man who knows more about himself than most young men do. Bay’s gift is knowing where people belong. Bay knows where she belongs… if only she can convince Josh of the same.
I find myself longing for another installment of this magical family. The tree (and the house) has so much personality, it’s probably my favorite character. And I feel like there is more story to tell. Like Evanelle… what did M mean by telling her not to be in such a hurry to go, there’s more work to be done? Sydney’s relationship with Victoria took a bit of a predictable turn, but I feel like there is more there? Josh and Bay– do they end up together? Buster and Fred– come on, isn’t there a niggle of attraction? And Moriah, who finally displays a gift.. surely, Ms. Allen, there’s another Waverley tale inside you!