Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, With Anyone Else But Me

Expected Publication: January 20th, 2015
First Frost (Waverley Family #2)
By: Sarah Addison Allen
St. Martin's Press
ISBN-13:  9781250019837

It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly.  As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievious apple tree...and all the magic that swirls around it.  But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley's Candies.  Through her handcrafted confections -- rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness, and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds -- are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance.  With each passing day she longs more for a baby -- a namesake for her wonderful Henry.  Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney's daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to...if only he could see it, too.  But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before.  And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.


       I generally like my magic and my reality clearly defined and in their separate boxes (or if mixed in the same box, it's obvious and for a specific reason).  Magical realism is a type of writing that I have very limited experience with, and before requesting this book I had read nothing by Sarah Addison Allen.  I'm glad I didn't realize it was a companion to a previous work, or I might not have tried reading it.  That said, I really enjoyed the idea that this ordinary southern family, the Waverleys, had magical powers passed down through the female line.  Everyone just accepts this as a fact, including the people of the town they live in.  It kind of reminded me of Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, in that while not completely ostracized by their peers, the Waverley women (especially teenaged Bay) are treated like freaks - there for convenience and never to truly belong with the rest of the world.  It was a realistic attitude that I'm sure many people would adopt out of fear, if magic was truly real.
       The Waverley women are always restless in autumn, and nothing is exactly right again until first frost happens.  When the apple tree blooms, everything is good once again.  Until then, nothing is sitting quite right with the sisters or their own children.  Claire Waverley has gone from her catering business into a candy business, that while successful, is making her feel like her magic might be manufactured, and not real after all.  Sydney Waverley is desperate to give her husband Henry a son, a namesake to carry on the traditions of the men in his family.  Her hair gets redder and redder with desire, and she allows herself to be unsatisfied with her already full life.  Bay Waverley has a talent for knowing where things belong.  She knows that she belongs with Josh Matteson, but can't seem to make him understand that.  Then a strange old man rolls into town, claiming that Claire was the daughter of his friends and isn't really a Waverley - that her "mother" kidnapped her.  Will Claire let this con shake the last of her faith in herself and the magic, or will she band together with Sydney, Bay and their cousin Evanelle, to come out even stronger?
       Since I didn't read the novel before this one, Garden Spells, I had no previous impressions of the characters.  Therefore, I think I liked Bay the best.  She's the most in tune with herself and knows that she is a Waverley woman - that magic is a fact of her life.  She's not boy-crazy, and isn't being a total goof over Josh.  In fact when we get to know what her infamous note to him really said, it was really just an offer of friendship.  She isn't trying to push anything, but Bay knows they belong together and that she can help Josh, who is miserable and being crushed beneath his family's expectations.  I also really liked Evanelle, whose talent is giving people the things they need.  She was a hilarious, strong old lady and she cracked me up.  Sydney was my least favorite, mostly because she lets this young girl Violet, her receptionist (a teen Mom) walk all over her and steal from her.  All because she's obsessed with Violet's baby son.  She was so laser-focused on getting pregnant that she stopped talking to her daughter and basically used Henry as a sex-machine.  I empathized more towards the end, but the plot "twist" Allen had in regards to her was super predictable and made me roll my eyes.  I did like that Claire's daughter Mariah, the "normal" one of the family," did turn to have an unexpected gift.  Overall, I enjoyed reading this one and might attempt more magical realism in the future.  I might even backtrack and read Garden Spells.

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

* received this book from St Martin's Press, on NetGalley.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book was published on January 20th, 2015.*

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