I’ve just spent a delightful evening with the Waverley family. You’re invited, too. It’s not an intrusion, really. They have so much to offer, if you’ll just sit and listen to their story.
Some of you have met them before, in the novel Garden Spells, but this is my first visit to Bascom, North Carolina and I am enthralled. The author fills us in on enough details so that you haven’t missed a thing. In Bascom, one’s heritage predetermines one’s fate, whether it’s sexual prowess, body strength, or when you will marry. The Waverley’s skill is magic — Whether it’s Sydney’s ability to fix your hair in such a way that your day runs smoothly, all lights are green, all tests are passed — Or perhaps it’s Claire’s talent to create a dish which stimulates love or helps you find your missing keys — Maybe it’s Bay who simply knows where everything belongs, from the display at a Halloween dance to what house a person is destined to own. My personal favorite Waverley is cousin Evanelle who intuitively knows what you need and is driven to make sure she hands it to you before you even require it. (I had a similar talent with books when I was a full time librarian in the public school system).
So let me tell you all about First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen. The author calls her books Southern Fried Magical Realism, that good old fashioned Southern Magic of folklore. In this case it’s all about the Waverley females, supported by their favorite men. Sydney and Claire are two sisters who have grown very close, despite their “Fig and Pepper” background. It’s Autumn and the family is anxiously awaiting the First Frost when the magical Apple Tree in the backyard mysteriously come to life once more. Its dormant stage invites trouble, an unsettled feeling that something is about to happen. Of course, a lot is happening to the Waverley women. Fifteen year old Bay has fallen in love with Josh. Her mother Sydney has encouraged Bay to confide in her, but when she discovers the boy Bay has selected is a Matteson, Bay finds herself permanently grounded. “Mattesons don’t mix well with Waverleys.” Sydney has her own issues as she desperately tries to give her husband a son, which includes surprise lunchtime visits to his workplace. Then there’s Sydney’s sister Claire, who has switched from catering to candy making, but wonders about the results from using purchased edible flowers instead of the home grown kind. She worries about whether she has truly inherited her grandmother’s mystical cooking ability or if her talents are a sham. In addition, there’s that disappearing older gentleman hanging around the place. How does he fit in?
Each has their worries, but all is resolved with a dose of love, a pinch of romance, and a yard full of petals from a flowering tree. Grab a seat and start reading so you don’t miss out on this gentle, sweet tale of stubborn doors, rebellious children, and sisterhood. An excellent way to spend a cold winter’s afternoon. Four stars.
A thank you to St Martin’s Press and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.