Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Title: First Frost
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press (January 20, 2015)
ISBN: 9781250019837
Pages: 291 pages
How I Read It: eARC
Genre: magical realism, women's fiction, contemporary
My Rating: 4.5 cups 

From the New York Times bestselling author of GARDEN SPELLS comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves...

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 mischievous 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.  Though 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.

Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen's enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

My Thoughts:

On the day the tree bloomed in the fall, when its white apple blossoms fell and covered the ground like snow, it was tradition for the Waverleys to gather in the garden like survivors of some great catastrophe, hugging one another, laughing as they touched faces and arms, making sure they were all okay, grateful to have gotten through it.” 

I love Sarah Addison Allen’s writing, and Garden Spells is a particular favorite, so the prospect of revisiting the Waverley family was exciting to say the least. While you could read this book on its own, your appreciation will be much greater if you begin with Garden Spells and experience the earlier events of this family’s story before diving into First Frost. Other reviewers have compared reading this book to coming home and visiting old friends, and it truly does feel that way. Though 10 years have passed since the end of Garden Spells and their lives have moved on and changed in various ways, the Waverleys are all still the same endearing yet imperfect characters, complete with their various magical gifts, personality quirks, and struggles to find their way.

As always, Sarah’s prose shines and the magical elements are incorporated with such subtle finesse that they are entirely believable. While not quite as perfect as Garden Spells was for me, this book is a very close second. There is a bit of mystery involved here and we gain some insight into Grandmother Mary, who raised the Waverley sisters, as well as their mother, the enigmatic Lorelei. Obviously, the focus of the story is slightly different this time, less romance and more family, but still completely engaging and filled with wonderful insights on life as the Waverley’s endeavor to get through the unsettling time before First Frost.

I must say that I did miss the antics of the irrepressible apple tree, as it is ‘asleep’ during most of the novel awaiting that first frost. I also would have loved to see a little more involvement from Tyler and Henry. Evanelle, however, is a delight as usual, and the unpredictable Waverley house gets up to some mischief that will keep you chuckling as well.

You simply cannot read one of Sarah’s books without feeling blanketed by a warm comforting glow, and First Frost is no exception. It is a delightful read and not to be missed, especially for fans of Garden Spells. I highly recommend it!

Happiness isn’t a point in time you leave behind. It’s what’s ahead of you. Every single day.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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