Monday, August 04, 2008

Garden Spells

I saw the cover of Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen, in a store and was intrigued.
You might be surprised how many great reads I've found because I was attracted to the cover.
Something about the color or the image made me pick up the book and leaf through the pages.

I went back to buy a copy, and it was sold out.
Then I saw a display of new books at my local library, and had to read it.
This is one of the best books I've read in awhile.

It is filled with all the elements I love--food, symbolism, writing that makes me want to dogear the page.
It is the story of a family with some quirks--an aunt has a compulsion to give people things they are going to need, they just don't know it yet.
A sister has both a passion and a gift with cutting hair and making people look amazing.
Another sister caters using things that grow in her garden.
It's special garden.
The apple tree boasts fruit like crystal balls. Um, not the size, the effect.
It is a garden filled with herbs and flowers that, when cooked into breads and cakes and other goodies...evoke things you want to see or feel.

This book is magical in every sense of the word.
I loved it.
Sense is the perfect word actually--the book is about taste and smell and touch, and the way simple pleasures transform our lives.

Here are some excerpts to give you a hint:
For the past two years, ever sine he'd dragged her back from Boise, Sydney would walk into a room and smell roses, or she would wake up and taste honeysuckle in the air. The scents always seemed to be coming from a window or a doorway, a way out.
It was only one night while watching Bay sleep, crying quietly and wondering how she was going to keep her child safe when they were in danger if they stayed and in danger if they left, that it suddenly made sense.
She'd been smelling home.
(page 32)

The garden was gated with heavy metal fencing, like a gothic cemetary, and the honeysuckle clinging to it was almost two feet thick in some places, completely closing in the place. Even the gate door was covered with honeysuckle vines, and the keyhole was a secret pocket only a few could find.
When she entered, she noticed it right away.
There, in the cluster of Queen Anne's lace, tiny leaves of ivy were sprouting.
Ivy in the garden.
The garden was saying that something was trying to get in, something that was pretty and looked harmless but would take over everything if given the chance.
(page 35)

Sometimes people who had been together for a long time got to imagining that things used to be better, even when they weren't. Memories, even hard memories, grew soft like peaches as they got older. (page 50)

There was a type of craziness caused by long-term complacency. All the Burgess women in town, who never had less than six children each, walked around in a fog until their children left home. When their youngest finally left the nest, they always did something crazy, like burn all their respectable high-neck dresses and wear too much perfume. And anyone who had been married for more than a year could testify to the surprise of coming home one day and finding that your husband had torn down a wall to make a room bigger or your wife had dyed her hair just to make you look at her differently. There were midlife crises and hot flashes. There were bad decisions. There were affairs. There was a certain point when sometimes someone said, I've had enough. (page 161)

When you know something's wrong, but you don't know exactly what it is, the air around you changes. Claire felt it. The plastic of the phone was too warm. The walls were sweating slightly. If she went out to the garden, she knew she'd find morning glory blooming in the middle of the day. (page 79)

It was hot and things were out of whack. Doorknobs that everyone swore were on the right side of the doors were actually on the left. Butter melted in the refrigerator. Things weren't being said and were left to stew in the air. (page 129)

She crossed her arms over her chest and watched a maid put candles in tall glass hurricane lamps on each of the tables. Sydney listened distantly as Claire told Joanne where the roses and the fuchsia and the gladioli should be placed on the tables. "Gladioli here," she said, "where the nutmeg stuffing in the squash blossoms and the fennel chicken will be. Roses here, where the rose petal scones will go." It was all so intricate, a manipulative plan to make the guests feel something they might not feel otherwise...
"If it's love you want to portray, then roses." And, "Cinnamon and nutmeg mean prosperity."
(page 90)

"You've learned the secret to my success," Claire said. "When people believe you have something to give, something no one else has, they'll go to great lengths and pay a lot of money for it." (page 143)

this is such a fun idea!
Claire was at the kitchen island making chocolate cupcakes for the Havershams, who lived four doors down. They were hosting their grandson's pirate-themed tenth birthday. Instead of cake, they wanted six dozen cupcakes with something baked inside, a child-size ring or a coin or a charm. Claire had made candy strips from thin shoots of angelica from the garden and was going to make a tiny X on the frosting of each cupcake, like the sign on a treasure map; then she was going to put tiny cards on toothpicks with riddles as to what was buried within. (page 174)

And as a boy it was a fact that if you caught exactly 20 fireflies in a jar, then let them all out before you went to bed, you'd sleep through the night without bad dreams. (188)

He stared up at the moon, which looked like a giant hole in the sky, letting light through from the other side. He took deep breaths of the wet grass and warm roses and the black pavement from the highway that was still so hot from the summer sun that it melted at the edges and smelled like fire. (page 238) was like the way you wanted sunshine on Saturdays, or pancakes for breakfast. They just made you feel good.
(page 282)



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