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  • Written by Sarah Addison Allen
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Written by Sarah Addison AllenAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Sarah Addison Allen

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On Sale: August 28, 2007
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-553-90412-3
Published by : Bantam Bantam Dell
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

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….


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

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.

What she dreamed of was always the same. Long roads like snakes with no tails. Sleeping in the car at night while her mother met men in bars and honky-tonks. Being a lookout while her mother stole shampoo and deodorant and lipstick and sometimes a candy bar for Claire at Shop-and-Gos around the Midwest. Then, just before she woke up, her sister, Sydney, always appeared in a halo of light. Lorelei held Sydney and ran to the Waverley home in Bascom, and the only reason Claire was able to go with them was because she was holding tight to her mother's leg and wouldn't let go.

That morning, when Claire woke up in the backyard garden, she tasted regret in her mouth. With a frown, she spit it out. She was sorry for the way she'd treated her sister as a child. But the six years of Claire's life before Sydney's arrival had been fraught with the constant fear of being caught, of being hurt, of not having enough food or gas or warm clothes for the winter. Her mother always came through but always at the last minute. Ultimately, they were never caught and Claire was never hurt and, when the first cold snap signaled the changing colors of the leaves, her mother magically produced blue mittens with white snowflakes on them and pink thermal underwear to wear under jeans and a cap with a droopy ball on top. That life on the run had been good enough for Claire, but Lorelei obviously thought Sydney deserved better, that Sydney deserved to be born with roots. And the small scared child in Claire hadn't been able to forgive her.

Picking up the clippers and the trowel from the ground beside her, she stood stiffly and walked in the dawning fog toward the shed. She suddenly stopped. She turned and looked around. The garden was quiet and damp, the temperamental apple tree at the back of the lot shivering slightly as if dreaming. Generations of Waverleys had tended this garden. Their history was in the soil, but so was their future. Something was about to happen, something the garden wasn't ready to tell her yet. She would have to keep a sharp eye out.

She went to the shed and carefully wiped the dew off the old tools and hung them on their places on the wall. She closed and locked the heavy gate door to the garden, then crossed the driveway at the back of the ostentatious Queen Anne-style home she'd inherited from her grandmother.

Claire entered the house through the back, stopping in the sunroom that had been turned into a drying and cleaning room for herbs and flowers. It smelled strongly of lavender and peppermint, like walking into a Christmas memory that didn't belong to her. She drew her dirty white nightgown over her head, balled it up, and walked naked into the house. It was going to be a busy day. She had a dinner party to cater that night, and it was the last Tuesday in May, so she had to deliver her end-of-the-month shipment of lilac and mint and rose-petal jellies and nasturtium and chive-blossom vinegars to the farmers' market and to the gourmet grocery store on the square, where the college kids from Orion College would hang out after classes.

There was a knock at the door as Claire was pulling her hair back with combs. She went downstairs in a white eyelet sundress, still barefooted. When she opened the door, she smiled at the fireplug of an old lady standing on the porch.

Evanelle Franklin was seventy-nine years old, looked like she was one hundred and twenty, yet still managed to walk a mile around the track at Orion five days a week. Evanelle was a distant relation, a second or third or fourteenth cousin, and she was the only other Waverley still living in Bascom. Claire stuck to her like static, needing to feel a connection to family after Sydney took off when she was eighteen and their grandmother died the same year.

When Claire was young, Evanelle would stop by to give her a Band-Aid hours before she scraped her knee, quarters for her and Sydney long before the ice cream truck arrived, and a flashlight to put under her pillow a full two weeks before lightning struck a tree down the street and the entire neighborhood was without power all night. When Evanelle brought you something, you were usually going to need it sooner or later, though that cat bed she gave Claire five years ago had yet to find its use. Most people in town treated Evanelle kindly but with amusement, and even Evanelle didn't take herself too seriously. But Claire knew there was always something behind the strange gifts Evanelle brought.

"Well, don't you look eye-talian with your dark hair and Sophia Loren dress. Your picture should be on a bottle of olive oil," Evanelle said. She was in her green velour running suit, and slung over her shoulder was a rather large tote bag full of quarters and stamps and egg timers and soap, all things she might feel the need to give someone at some point.

"I was just about to make some coffee," Claire said, stepping back. "Come in."

"Don't mind if I do." Evanelle entered and followed Claire to the kitchen, where she sat at the kitchen table while Claire made the coffee. "You know what I hate?"

Claire looked over her shoulder as steam carrying the smell of coffee curled around the kitchen. "What do you hate?"

"I hate summer."Claire laughed. She loved having Evanelle around. Claire had tried for years to get the old lady to move into the Waverley house so she could take care of her, so the house wouldn't feel as if the walls were moving out of her way as she walked, making the hallways longer and rooms bigger. "Why on earth would you hate summer? Summer is wonderful. Fresh air, open windows, picking tomatoes and eating them while they're still warm from the sun."

"I hate summer because most of them college kids leave town, so there aren't as many runners and I don't have any nice male backsides to look at when I walk the track."

"You're a dirty old lady, Evanelle."

"I'm just sayin'."

"Here you go," Claire said, setting a coffee cup on the table in front of Evanelle.

Evanelle peered into the cup. "You didn't put anything in it, did you?"

"You know I didn't."

"Because your side of the Waverleys always wants to put something in everything. Bay leaves in bread, cinnamon in coffee. I like things plain and simple. Which reminds me, I brought you something." Evanelle grabbed her tote bag and brought out a yellow Bic lighter.

"Thank you, Evanelle," Claire said as she took the lighter and put it in her pocket. "I'm sure this will come in handy."

"Or maybe it won't. I just knew I had to give it to you." Evanelle, who had twenty-eight sweet teeth, all of them false, picked up her coffee and looked over at the covered cake plate on the stainless-steel island. "What have you made over there?"

"White cake. I stirred violet petals into the batter. And I crystallized some violets to put on top. It's for a dinner party I'm catering tonight." Claire picked up a Tupperware container beside it. "This white cake, I made for you. Nothing weird in it, I promise." She set it on the table next to Evanelle."

You are the sweetest girl. When are you going to get married? When I'm gone, who will take care of you?"

"You're not going anywhere. And this is a perfect house for a spinster to live in. I'll grow old in this house, and neighborhood children will vex me by trying to get to the apple tree in the backyard and I'll chase them away with a broom. And I'll have lots of cats. That's probably why you gave me that cat bed."

Evanelle shook her head. "Your problem is routine. You like your routine too much. You get that from your grandmother. You're too attached to this place, just like her."

Claire smiled because she liked being compared to her grandmother. She had no idea about the security of having a name until her mother brought her here, to this house where her grandmother lived. They'd been in Bascom maybe three weeks, Sydney had just been born, and Claire had been sitting outside under the tullip tree in the front yard while people in town came to see Lorelei and her new baby. Claire wasn't new, so she didn't think anyone would want to see her. A couple came out of the house after visiting, and they watched Claire quietly build tiny log cabins with twigs. "She's a Waverley, all right," the woman said. "In her own world."

Claire didn't look up, didn't say a word, but she grabbed the grass before her body floated up. She was a Waverley. She didn't tell anyone, not a soul, for fear of someone taking her happiness away, but from that day on she would follow her grandmother out into the garden every morning, studying her, wanting to be like her, wanting to do all the things a true Waverley did to prove that, even though she wasn't born here, she was a Waverley too."

I have to pack some boxes of jelly and vinegar to deliver," she said to Evanelle. "If you'll wait here for a minute, I'll drive you home."

"Are you making a delivery to Fred's?" Evanelle asked.

"Yes."

"Then I'll just go with you. I need Cokecola. And some Goo Goo Clusters. And maybe I'll pick up some tomatoes. You made me crave tomatoes."

While Evanelle debated the merits of yellow tomatoes versus red, Claire took four corrugated boxes out of the storeroom and packed up the jelly and the vinegar. When she was done, Evanelle followed her outside to her white minivan with Waverley's Catering written on the side.

Evanelle got in the passenger seat while Claire put her boxes in the back, then Claire handed Evanelle the container with her plain white cake in it and a brown paper bag to hold.

"What's this?" Evanelle said, looking in the brown bag as Claire got behind the wheel.

"A special order."

"It's for Fred," Evanelle said knowingly.

"Do you think he'd ever do business with me again if I told you that?"

"It's for Fred."

"I didn't say that."

"It's for Fred."

"I don't think I heard you. Who is it for?"

Evanelle sniffed. "Now you're being Miss Smarty Pants."

Claire laughed and pulled out of the drive.

Business was doing well, because all the locals knew that dishes made from the flowers that grew around the apple tree in the Waverley garden could affect the eater in curious ways. The biscuits with lilac jelly, the lavender tea cookies, and the tea cakes made with nasturtium mayonnaise the Ladies Aid ordered for their meetings once a month gave them the ability to keep secrets. The fried dandelion buds over marigold-petal rice, stuffed pumpkin blossoms, and rose-hip soup ensured that your company would notice only the beauty of your home and never the flaws. Anise hyssop honey butter on toast, angelica candy, and cupcakes with crystallized pansies made children thoughtful. Honeysuckle wine served on the Fourth of July gave you the ability to see in the dark. The nutty flavor of the dip made from hyacinth bulbs made you feel moody and think of the past, and the salads made with chicory and mint had you believing that something good was about to happen, whether it was true or not.

The dinner Claire was catering that night was being hosted by Anna Chapel, the head of the art department at Orion College, who gave a dinner party at the end of every spring semester for her department. Claire had catered these parties for her for the past five years. It was good exposure to get her name out among the university crowd, because they only expected good food with a splash of originality, whereas the people in town who had lived there all their lives came to her to cater affairs with a specific agenda-to get something off your chest and be assured the other person wouldn't speak of it again, to secure a promotion, or to mend a friendship.

First Claire took the jelly and vinegar to the farmers' market on the highway, where she'd rented shelf space at a booth, then she went into town and parked in front of Fred's Gourmet Grocery, formerly Fred's Foods, as it had been called for two generations, before a posher college and touristy crowd started shopping there.

She and Evanelle walked into the market with its creaking hardwood floors. Evanelle headed for the tomatoes, while Claire went to the back to Fred's office.

She knocked once, then opened the door. "Hello, Fred."

Sitting at his father's old desk, he had invoices in front of him, but judging by the way he jumped when Claire opened the door, his mind had been on other things. He immediately stood. "Claire. Good to see you."

"I have those two boxes you ordered."

"Good, good." He grabbed the white blazer hanging on the back of his chair and put it on over his short-sleeved black shirt. He walked out to her van with her and helped her bring the boxes in. "Did, um, did you bring that other thing we talked about?" he asked as they walked to the stockroom.

She smiled slightly and went back outside. A minute later she came back in and handed him the paper bag with a bottle of rose geranium wine in it.

Fred took it, looking embarrassed, then he handed her an envelope with a check in it. The act was completely innocuous, because he always gave her a check when she delivered her jelly and vinegar, but this check was a full ten times what his normal check to her was. And the envelope was brighter, as if filled with lightning bugs, lit by his hope.

"Thank you, Fred. I'll see you next month."

"Right. Bye, Claire."


From the Hardcover edition.
Sarah Addison Allen|Author Q&A|Author Desktop

About Sarah Addison Allen

Sarah Addison Allen - Garden Spells

Photo © L. Allen

Sarah Addison Allen is the author of Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen. She was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina.

Author Q&A


The four Waverley women all have special talents: Evanelle’s gifts, Claire’s knack with herbs, even Bay’s sense of belonging. Which of these gifts would you most like to have?


I would love to be able to cook with instinct and abandon, like Claire. Unfortunately, cooking is such a tricky alchemy to me. I once thought lettuce and cabbage were interchangeable. Then there’s the whole baking soda/powder conundrum. And I’m completely confounded by exactly how much is a pinch of salt. But it’s always been a fantasy of mine to be able to create gorgeous, unusual dishes.

If you knew that biting into a Waverley apple would reveal your future would you bite? What do you think you might learn?

I think I would resist taking that bite. Having your future revealed would be like finding out that someone was planning a party for you. The surpise is the best part about it.

Forced to choose, how would you categorize your book? Contemporary romance? Romantic fantasy? Fairy tale? Southern fiction? Something else entirely?

I’ve always called it Southern-fried magical realism. But, at it’s heart, it’s a love story.

Bay’s innocence and gentle curiosity rejuvenated the Waverley household. How do you think Bay inspired the entire Waverley family?

Bay’s gift is knowing where things belong, so when Bay is satisfied that things are where they’re supposed to be, I think it gives not only the Waverleys, but the reader, a sense of security. It means all is right with the world.

Evanelle delivers such a broad range of gifts, from a lighter to strawberry Pop-Tarts, and even a mango splitter. How did you come up with such quirky gifts?

I let my mind wander to crazy things that would fit into a large purse, like the kind Evanelle carries. The content of a woman’s purse says a lot about her. Evanelle’s bag tells her entire story.

In past interviews, you’ve said that the Waverley tree didn’t become a character until the end of your novel. How did this magical tree weave its way into Claire’s garden and your story?


When I reached the scene when an apple rolls out of the garden and stops at Sydney’s feet upon her returning home, I was surprised. I didn’t intend for that to happen. But that’s when I realized the tree itself had a personality. I went back to the beginning of the story and wove that personality in. The tree is a character in its own right, and it wanted me to know that!

Claire obviously has a lot of resentment built up for her younger sister Sydney. It seems to be a case of one-sided sibling rivalry. Do you have any siblings who have inspired your thoughts on this?

My real-life older sister is named Sydney, actually! But we’re so far apart in age that the only rivalry I can think of is that I always thought she got the better name…

In September 2007, Garden Spells was chosen as both a BookSense pick and a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection, how have these achievements changed your goals for your future books?


The attention Garden Spells has received has been a wonderful surprise. I’m incredibly grateful. But my goals remain the same—to keep writing books I love, quirky as they may be.

A prominent theme in Garden Spells is the effect of Claire’s catering dishes on her clients. Do you have a favorite “go to” recipe when you have guests over?


If I can make this, anyone can. Seriously.

Ziti with Artichokes

1 box of ziti, cooked and drained
1 can tomato sauce
2 small jars of marinated artichokes, quartered (save oil)
2 chopped fresh tomatoes or 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, drained
2 small cans of sliced ripe olives
Salt, pepper, sweet basil

In large warm skillet, pour about 3 or 4 Tbs of the artichoke marinade. Add artichokes and tomatoes, then sauté. Add tomato sauce. Simmer for about five minutes. Flavor with salt, pepper and sweet basil. Remove from heat and add cooked ziti and ripe olives.

How do you think your father, being a writer himself, has influenced your work?


When I was in junior high, Dad was getting a lot of recognition for his work at the newspaper. My lit teachers were aware of his work, and I think they wanted to see something of him in me. If there was a glimmer of something good in my writing, they praised it. They found something in me I didn’t know was there. I’ll always be grateful for that.

Can you tell us a little about your next book, The Sugar Queen?

A secret closet full of candy…Books that won’t go away…Three women with more in common than they think…

The Sugar Queen, a novel of love, candy and magic, on sale Summer 2008.


From the Hardcover edition.

Author Q&A

Bonus Excerpt


The morning after Anna Chapel’s party, Claire went to the garden for a basket of mint. She was going to start on the food for the Amateur Botanists Association’s annual luncheon in Hickory on Friday. Being botanists, they liked the idea of edible flowers. Being a bunch of rich eccentric old ladies, they paid well and could give a lot of referrals. It was a coup to get the job, but it was a big job, and she was going to have to buck it up and hire someone local to help her serve.

The garden was gated by heavy metal fencing, like a gothic cemetery, 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.

Overnight.

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. She quickly pulled the ivy out and dug deep for the roots. But then she spied a hairy vine of it sneaking up lilac bush, and she crawled over to it.

In her haste, she hadn’t closed the garden gate behind her, and a half hour later she jerked her head around in surprise when she heard the crunch of footsteps on the gravel pathway that snaked around the flowers.

It was Tyler, carrying a cardboard milk box and looking around as if he’d entered someplace enchanted. Everything bloomed here at once, even at a time of year when it wasn’t supposed to. He stopped suddenly when his eyes found Claire on her knees, digging up the roots of the ivy under the lilac bush. He gave her a look like he was trying to make her out in the dark.

“It’s Tyler Hughes,” he said, as if she wouldn’t recognize him, “from next door.”

She nodded. “I remember.”

He walked over to her. “Apples,” he said, crouching beside her and putting the box on the ground. “They fell over the fence. There are at least a dozen here. I didn’t know if you used them for your catering, so I thought I’d bring them over. I tried your door, but no one answered.” Claire scooted the box away from him as subtly as possible. “I don’t use them. But thank you. You don’t like apples?”

He shook his head. “Just occasionally. I can’t figure out for the life of me how they got in my yard. The tree is too far away.”

He didn’t mention a vision, which relieved her. He must not have eaten one. “Must have been the wind,” she said.

“You know, the trees on campus don’t have mature apples on them at this time of year.”

“This tree blooms in the winter and produces apples all spring and summer.”

Tyler stood and stared at the tree. “Impressive.”

Claire looked over her shoulder at it. The tree was situated toward the back of the lot. It wasn’t very tall, but it grew long and sideways. Its limbs stretched out like a dancer’s arms and the apples grew at the very ends, as if holding the fruit in its palms. It was a beautiful old tree, the gray bark wrinkled and molting in places. The only grass in the garden was around the tree, stretching about ten feet beyond the reach of its branches, giving the old tree its room.

Claire didn’t know why, but every once in a while the tree would actually throw apples, as if bored. When she was young, her bedroom window looked out over the garden. She would sleep with her window open in the summers, and sometimes she would wake in the morning to find one or two apples on the floor.

Claire gave the tree a stern look. Occasionally that worked, making it behave. “It’s just a tree,” she said, and turned back to the lilac bush. She resumed pulling at the roots of the ivy.

Tyler put his hands in his pockets and watched her work. She’d been working alone in the garden for so many years that she realized she missed having someone there. It reminded her of gardening with her grandmother. It was never meant to be a solitary job. “So, have you lived in Bascom long?” Tyler finally asked.

“Almost all my life.”

“Almost?”

“My family is from here. My mother was born here. She left but moved back when I was six. I’ve been here ever since.”

“So you are from here.”

Claire froze. How could he do that? How could he do that with just five little words? He just said to her the very thing she’d always wanted to hear. He was getting in without even knowing how he did it. He was the ivy, wasn’t he? She very slowly turned her head and looked up at him, his lanky body, his awkward features, his beautiful brown eyes. “Yes,” she said breathlessly.

“So, who are your guests?” he asked.

It took a moment for the words to penetrate. “I don’t have any guests.”

“As I was coming around the front of the house, someone pulled up to the curb with a car full of boxes and bags. I thought they were moving in.”

“That’s strange.” Claire stood and took off her gloves. She turned and walked out of the garden, making sure Tyler was following her. She didn’t trust the tree alone with him, even if he didn’t eat apples.

She walked along the driveway curving beside the house, but then she came to a sudden stop beside the tulip tree in the front yard. Tyler came up behind her, close, and put his hands on her arms, as if aware that her legs had turned boneless.

More ivy.

There was a little girl, about five years old, running around the yard with her arms stretched wide like an airplane.

A woman was leaning against an old Subaru wagon parked on the street, her arms crossed tightly over her chest, watching the little girl. She looked small, frail, with unwashed light-brown hair and deep circles under her eyes.

She seemed to be holding herself to keep from trembling. Claire wondered absently if this was how her grandmother felt when her daughter came home after years away, when pregnant Lorelei showed up on her door-step with a six-year-old clinging to her leg. This relief, this anger, this sadness, this panic.

Finally making her legs move, she crossed the yard, leaving Tyler behind.

“Sydney?”

Sydney pushed herself away from the car quickly, startled. Her eyes went all over Claire before she smiled. That insecure woman with her arms wrapped around her was gone, replaced by the old Sydney, the one who always looked down her nose at her family name, never realizing what a gift it was to have been born here. “Hi, Claire.” Claire stopped on the sidewalk, a few feet away from her. She could be a ghost, or maybe someone who looked incredibly like Sydney. The Sydney Claire knew would never let her hair look like that. She wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a T-shirt with food stains on it. She used to be so meticulous, so put together. She always tried so hard not to look like a Waverley. “Where have you been?”

“Everywhere.” Sydney smiled that spectacular smile of hers, and suddenly it didn’t matter what her hair or clothes looked like. Yes, this was Sydney.

The little girl from the yard ran up to Sydney and stood close to her. Sydney put her arm around her.

“This is my daughter, Bay.”

Claire looked at the child and managed to smile. She had dark hair, as dark as Claire’s, but Sydney’s blue eyes.

“Hello, Bay.”

“And this is . . . ?” Sydney asked suggestively.

“Tyler Hughes,” he said, extending a hand past Claire. She hadn’t realized he’d come up behind her again, and she gave a start. “I live over there, next door.”

Sydney shook Tyler’s hand and nodded. “The old Sanderson place. It looks good. It wasn’t blue the last time I saw it. Just a hideous moldy white.”

“I can’t take credit for it. I bought it like that.”

“I’m Sydney Waverley, Claire’s sister.”

“Nice to meet you. I’ll just be going. Claire, if you need me for anything . . .” He squeezed Claire’s shoulder, then left. She was confused. She didn’t want him to go. Yet of course he couldn’t stay. But now she was alone with Sydney and her quiet daughter, and she had no idea what to do.

Sydney wagged her eyebrows. “He’s hot.”

“Waverley,” Claire said.

“What?”

“You said your last name was Waverley.”

“Last time I checked.”

“I thought you hated the name.”

Sydney shrugged noncommitally.

“What about Bay?”

“Her name is Waverley too. Go play some more, honey,” Sydney said, and Bay ran back to the yard. “I can’t believe how great the house looks. New paint, new windows, new roof. I never imagined it could look so good.”

“I used Grandma Waverley’s life-insurance money to remodel.”

Sydney turned away a moment, ostensibly to watch Tyler climb the stairs to his front porch and then walk into his house. She had stiffened, and it occurred to Claire that this was shocking news to Sydney. Had she really expected to find their grandmother here, alive and well? What was she expecting? “When?” Sydney asked.

“When what?”

“When did she die?”

“Ten years ago. Christmas Eve, the year you left. I had no way to contact you. We didn’t know where you went.”

“Grandma knew. I told her. Say, do you mind if I pull this clunker behind the house?” Sydney knocked on the hood with her fist. “It’s sort of an embarrassment.”

“What happened to Grandma’s old car, the one she gave you?”

“I sold it in New York. Grandma said I could sell it if I wanted to.”

“So that’s where you’ve been, New York?”

“No, I only stayed there for a year. I’ve been around. Just like Mom.”

They locked eyes, and suddenly everything was quiet. “What are you doing here, Sydney?”

“I need a place to stay.”

“For how long?”

Sydney took a deep breath. “I don’t know.”

“You can’t leave Bay here.”

“What?”

“Like Mom left us here. You can’t leave her here.”

“I would never leave my daughter!” Sydney exclaimed, a touch of hysteria tinging her words, and Claire was suddenly aware of all that wasn’t being said, of the story Sydney wasn’t telling. Something big had to have happened to bring Sydney back here. “What do you want me to do, Claire, beg?”

“No, I don’t want you to beg.”

“I don’t have anywhere else to go,” Sydney said, forcing the words out, like spitting sunflower-seed shells to the sidewalk, where they stuck and baked in the sun, getting harder and harder.

What was Claire supposed to do? Sydney was family. Claire had learned the hard way that you weren’t supposed to take them for granted. She’d also learned they could hurt you more than anyone else in the world.

“Have you had breakfast yet?”

“No.”

“I’ll meet you in the kitchen.”

“Come on, Bay, I’m pulling the car around back,” Sydney called, and Bay ran to her mother.

“Bay, do you like strawberry Pop-Tarts?” Claire asked. Bay smiled, and it was Sydney’s smile made over. It almost hurt Claire to look at, remembering all the things she wished she could take back from when Sydney was a child, like chasing Sydney out of the garden when she wanted to see what Claire and their grandmother were doing and hiding recipes on high shelves so Sydney would never know their secrets. Claire had always wondered if she was the one who made Sydney hate being a Waverley. Was this child going to hate everything Waverley too? Bay didn’t know it, but she had a gift. Maybe Claire could teach her to use it. Claire didn’t know if she and Sydney would ever reconcile, or even how long she was going to stay, but maybe she could try to make up for what she’d done with Bay.

In mere minutes, Claire’s life had changed. Her grandmother had taken in Claire and Sydney. Claire would do the same for Sydney and Bay. No questions asked. It’s what a true Waverley did.

“Pop-Tarts are my favorite!” Bay said. Sydney looked startled. “How did you know?”

“I didn’t,” Claire said, turning toward the house.

“Evanelle did.”

Sydney parked the Subaru beside a white minivan at the back of the house, in front of the detached garage. Bay hopped out, but Sydney got out a little slower. She took her tote bag and Bay’s backpack, then she went around to the back of the car and unscrewed the Washington State license plate. She stuffed it into her bag. There. No clues as to where they’d been.

Bay was standing in the driveway that separated the house from the garden. “This is really where we’re going to live?” she asked, for about the sixteenth time since they’d pulled in front of the house that morning. Sydney took a deep breath. God, she couldn’t believe it. “Yes.”

“It’s a princess house.” She turned and pointed to the open gate. “Can I go see the flowers?”

“No. Those are Claire’s flowers.” She heard a thud and watched an apple roll out of the garden and stop at her feet. She stared at it for a moment. No one in her family ever found anything odd about having a tree that told the future and threw apples at people. Still, it was a better welcome
than Claire had given her. She kicked the apple back into the garden. “And stay away from the apple tree.”

“I don’t like apples.”

Sydney went to her knees in front of Bay. She pushed the little girl’s hair behind her ears and straightened her shirt. “Okay, what’s your name?”

“Bay Waverley.”

“And where were you born?”

“On a Greyhound bus.”

“Who is your father?”

“I don’t know who he is.”

“Where are you from?”

“Everywhere.”

She took her daughter’s hands. “You understand why you have to say these things, don’t you?”

“Because we’re different here. We’re not who we were.”

“You amaze me.”

“Thank you. Do you think Claire will like me?” Sydney stood, then took a moment to steady herself when dark spots appeared in front of her eyes and the world tilted off its axis for a moment. Her skin felt prickled, as if with goose bumps, and it hurt to blink. She was so tired she could hardly walk, but she couldn’t let Bay see her like that, and she certainly couldn’t let Claire see her like that. She managed to smile.

“She’d be crazy not to.”

“I like her. She’s like Snow White.”

They walked into the kitchen through the sunroom and Sydney looked around in awe. The kitchen had been remodeled, taking over most of what had been the dining room beside it. It was all stainless steel and efficiency, and there were two commercial refrigerators and two ovens. They wordlessly went to the kitchen table and sat, watching Claire put on coffee and then slide two Pop-Tarts into the toaster. Claire had changed–not in big ways but small ones, like the way light changed throughout the day. A different slant, a different hue. She carried herself differently; she no longer had that greedy, selfish way about her. She seemed comfortable, the way their grandmother used to seem comfortable. Don’t-moveme- and-I’ll-be-fine comfortable.

Watching her, it suddenly occurred to Sydney that Claire was beautiful. Sydney had never realized her sister was so beautiful. The man she was with earlier, the man from next door, thought so too. He was clearly attracted to Claire. And Bay was captivated by her, not taking her eyes off her even when Claire put warm Pop-Tarts and a glass of milk on the table in front of her.

“So, you run a catering company?” Sydney finally asked when Claire handed her a cup of coffee. “I saw the van.”

“Yes,” Claire said, turning away in a swish of mint and lilac. Her hair was longer than it used to be, and it veiled her shoulders like a shawl. She used it for protection. If there was one thing Sydney knew, it was hair. She loved beauty school and loved working in the salon in Boise. Hair said more about people than they knew, and Sydney understood the language naturally. It had surprised her that some other girls at beauty school thought it was hard. To Sydney it was second nature. It always had been. She didn’t have the energy to keep talking to Claire when Claire was making it so difficult, so she took a sip of the coffee and found it had cinnamon in it, just like Grandma Waverley used to make it. She wanted to drink more, but her hand started shaking and she had to set the cup down.

When was the last time she’d slept? She’d made sure Bay slept, but she was too scared to sleep more than small pockets at a time at rest stops and Wal-Mart parking lots along the way. Miles of highway ran on a permanent loop in her mind, and she still felt the hum of the road in her bones. It had taken them ten days, surviving on the food she’d packed, white bread and gingersnaps and cheap packages of peanut butter and crackers, the ones where the peanut butter tasted oily and the crackers crumbled at the touch. She wasn’t sure she could last much longer before she broke down in tears.

“Come on, Bay,” Sydney said the moment Bay finished her breakfast. “Let’s go upstairs.”

“I left new sheets from Evanelle on the beds,” Claire said.

“Which room?”

“Your room is still your room. Bay can sleep in my old room. I sleep in Grandma’s now,” she said, her back to them as she began to bring down large canisters of flour and sugar from the cabinets.

Sydney led Bay straight to the staircase, not looking around, because she was disoriented enough and didn’t want to discover what else had changed. Bay ran up the stairs ahead of her and waited, smiling. It was worth it. All this was worth it, just to see her child like this.

Sydney led her to Claire’s old room first. The furniture was different, mismatched. The sewing table used to be in the sitting room downstairs, and the bed used to be in their grandmother’s room. Bay ran to the window.

“I like this room.”

“Your aunt Claire used to spend hours at that window, staring out at the garden. You can sleep with me, if you want to. My room has a view of the blue house next door.”

“Maybe.”

“I’m going to start bringing in our things. Come with me.”

Bay looked at her hopefully. “Can I stay up here?” She was too tired to argue. “Don’t leave this room. If you want to go exploring, we’ll do it together.” Sydney left Bay, but instead of going downstairs to get the boxes and bags left in the car, she walked to her old room. When she was young she spent a lot of time by herself in her room, sometimes imagining that she was trapped there by her evil sister, like in a fairy tale. For two years after her mother left, Sydney even slept with sheets tied into a rope under her bed so she could crawl out the window when her mother came back to save her. But then she grew older and wiser and realized her mother wasn’t coming back. She also realized that her mother had the right idea by leaving in the first place. Sydney couldn’t wait to leave, to follow her boyfriend Hunter
John Matteson to college, because they were going to be in love forever, and even if they came back to Bascom it would be okay, because he had never treated her like a Waverley. Not until the very end, at least.

She took a deep breath and entered the room reverently, a church of old memories. Her bed and dresser were still there. The full-length mirror still had some of her old stickers on it. She opened the closet and found a stack of boxes full of old linen that mice had gotten into. But the room didn’t have an air of neglect. There wasn’t any dust, and it smelled old and familiar, like cloves and cedar. Claire had taken care of it, hadn’t turned it into a sitting room or filled it full of things she didn’t need or use anymore or taken Sydney’s old furniture out.

That did it.

Sydney went to the edge of the bed and sat. She put a hand over her mouth as she cried so Bay, singing quietly in the next room, wouldn’t hear.

Ten days on the road.

She needed a bath.

Claire looked prettier, and cleaner, than she did. Grandma Waverley was gone.

Bay liked it here, but she didn’t yet realize what being a Waverley meant.

What was David doing?

Did she leave behind any clues?

So much had changed, but her room was exactly like she’d left it.

She crawled to the pillow at the top of the bed and curled into a small ball. She was asleep seconds later.
___________________________________________________________________________

Excerpted from Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen Copyright © 2007 by Sarah Addison Allen . Excerpted by permission of Bantam Discovery, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise | Awards

Praise

“It’s refreshing to find a Southern novel that doesn’t depend on folksy humor or stereotypes but instead on the imaginative use of magical realism. Just buy it, read it, and recommend it to others.”—Library Journal, starred review

Garden Spells is so tender and enchanting, it drew me in on page one, and held me captivated—without letting me go for even a minute—until the end. I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen’s writing, and her world. She believes in love, and that’s her magic: She conjures a garden of moon vine and angel’s trumpet, fills it with characters who need each other, and writes so well you’ll never forget any of them.”—Luanne Rice

“Sarah Addison Allen has crafted a wonderful story that will cast a spell on everyone who has the pleasure of reading it. Garden Spells has a harvest of rich characters, a plot that will have you checking what you eat, and a heart that is overflowing with the tangled joys and sorrows of love and life.” —Kris Radish

Garden Spells is a rare and mesmerizing novel, brimming with light and fierce joy and the sharp shadows that must accompany such a tale. I desperately want to go live in Bascom and fall asleep in the Waverleys’ garden and let the magic and sweetness fill my every hour with its heady sense of possibility. So will you. This is one of the most charming books I’ve read in ages!”—Barbara Samuel

Garden Spells is truly spellbinding, beautifully crafted and as bewitching as the title suggests. This is Southern charm at its most beguiling, with characters you’ll take to your heart, a delicious love story, and a magical garden you’ll wish was in your own backyard. I devoured it in one sitting and was left eagerly awaiting Sarah Addison Allen’s next novel.”—Eileen Goudge

“Charming.... [Imbued] with a Southern charm that readers won't want to resist any more than they would Claire's violet cake.”—Christian Science Monitor


From the Hardcover edition.

Awards

WINNER 2008 SIBA Book Award
Reader's Guide|Discussion Questions

About the Book

The Waverleys are a curious family to the townspeople of Bascom, North Carolina. Legend has it that their feisty apple tree is enchanted, and that eating its fruit can show you the future. But no one foresaw how two very different sisters would spring from the same family roots.

Claire has never let go of her connection to family and lives alone in the old Waverley home, running a successful catering company and using ingredients from her magical garden.

It has been ten years since Sydney Waverley abandoned the family she was so ashamed of, and now she’s back–with a daughter and a suitcase packed with secrets. Healing the wounds of the past will take more than Claire’s potent hyacinth wine, but the two sisters soon realize that they’re more alike than either could have imagined.

From a bright new author in fiction, Garden Spells is a tale about how the strength of family ties can be as inexplicable as magic itself. The following questions are intended to enhance your discussion of this captivating novel.

Discussion Guides

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?


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