Sunday, November 23, 2014

Book Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

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Book review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Publication date: January 20, 2015


In this sequel to Addison's magical Garden Spells, readers are transported back to the small Southern town of Bascom, North Carolina ten years after Sydney and her daughter Bay have returned to put down roots and reconnect with Sydney's sister, Claire. All Waverley women have unique gifts and fifteen-year-old Bay is no different. Bay's is knowing where everything belongs, sometimes even people. But it's complicated having this gift, especially when she knows that the soccer star at school is supposed to be in her life somehow, even when barely knows she exists.

Claire's catering business has been put on hold as she delves into the candy-making business, which is lucrative if a bit time-consuming. And Sydney longs to have another baby, but it doesn't look like it's in the cards for her. Everything will come to a head when a mysterious stranger comes to town asking questions about their family.  Luckily, the first frost is creeping closer, a special time for the Waverley women.

Thoughts and Impressions:

Sarah Addison Allen has yet to disappoint. I was both excited and a bit anxious to read this because Garden Spells is my favorite of Allen's novels, and I was worried that it might not measure up. While not holding quite the same magic for me as its predecessor, I really enjoyed jumping back into the world of the Waverleys. Allen paints a beautiful picture of a small Southern town with all of its quirks and characters, and her writing is exquisitely descriptive without being overwrought.

Allen  does a good job of giving readers enough information about the first book without bashing you over the head with it,  making this novel work as a standalone as well. It was very refreshing not to have to reread Garden Spells to pick back up where I'd left off.

I do think that this book is wrapped up a little too neatly, taking away from the realistic quality of the story. I felt at times that her characters were just a little too good, and their conflicts could have been a little conflicted - I didn't feel that they had enough of a struggle, or if there was, it wasn't quite deep enough for me.  This book is great for a short, light feel-good read, leaving readers warm, fuzzy, and satisfied.

This is an easy book to recommend to any age - Claire and Sydney will connect with adult women and mothers, Bay's story line will connect with younger readers, and Claire and Sydney's vibrant cousin Evanelle will connect with older readers. It's also a great gentle read - no sex or swearing to be found.

What to Read Next? 

Sarah Addison Allen's books combine magical realism with Southern charm, and I'd recommend this to fans of Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate (if you like magical realism involving food), Lisa Van Allen's The Wishing Thread (if you like the small-town feel, magical realism, sister-connection), Erica Bauermeister's The School of Essential Ingredients (if you liked the food narrative and multiple story lines), and Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap (for the small-town feel and strong female characters).

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin's Press for a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Professional Reviews:

"Allen has written a beautiful, lyrical story, complete with genuine characters whose depth reflects Allen's skill as a writer. Allen's fans will be eagerly awaiting her next." -Publisher's Weekly

"Thomas Wolfe was wrong.  You can go home again, and in returning to the Waverley household, the winsomely wise Allen demonstrates that sometimes it's necessary to embrace the magic to find out what's real in life and in one's own heart." -Booklist, Carol Haggas