Do you like a bit of whimsy?
Can you deal with the occasional cliché in your writing?
Are you partial to adorable love stories?
Do you like strong, complex female characters?
If you answered no to any of the above questions, these books probably aren’t for you. If you answered yes to them, however, you’re about to be blown over by a gust of warm wind that probably smells like raspberries and feels like love.
Sarah Addison Allen’s books take place mainly in the South, an area that has always grabbed my imagination with visions of heat, old-fashioned manners, big old trees, picnics, and long lazy days. The books take me right into that world, replete with fancy outdoor parties and baking cakes and falling asleep outside in the backyard and fireflies and small, quiet towns. I love that vibe, I can’t get enough of it. It’s a world where people carve the initials of their high school sweethearts into tree trunks and go star-gazing and there are local legends and magic in the air and quaint boardwalks and general stores. It’s sunny and happy! There is good food! What’s not to love?
All the books have a little bit of magic in them, magical things that happen to the characters. It’s hard to describe without giving examples, so: in Garden Spells, the plants and fruits grown in the backyard of one family have strange and subtle effects on other people, making them feel regret or love or any number of other things. In The Sugar Queen, one of the characters is always being followed around by different books that appear in her path just when she needs most to read them. In The Girl Who Chased the Moon, there are mysterious lights dancing in the forest behind the house at night. It’s never big magic that the characters do, it’s more like serendipity, happy whimsy that makes their lives sparkle.
But even though most of the time, the books are filled with love and sunshine, the author isn’t afraid to tackle difficult issues. She manages to work themes of domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, bullying, questioning one’s sexual identity, low self-esteem and lots of other types of turmoil into her books in a way that seems real. Those problems are a part of the characters’ lives, but so is love in all its forms: between sisters, aunts and nieces, brothers, twins, lovers, friends, old love, new love, every type of love there is. The love she describes is enough to conquer all the bad stuff.
I think what I like best about these books is how they make me feel. It’s exam season and I’ve had my fair share of stressful days lately. But I decided to start re-reading these books that I love so much and they’ve been buoying me up with a little love, a little comfort, a little joy and hope. They’re the perfect companions for my current high-stress lifestyle – they’re fun and fast to read. They feel like summer and home.
I’d recommend starting with Garden Spells, her first (and most popular) novel.
After that, there’s
..and she’s coming out with a new novel “Lost Lake” sometime in 2013. I’m jazzed, obviously.
I can’t really say for sure that these novels are for everybody. There’s probably a big group of people who wouldn’t like them one bit. But for me, they’re wonderful, and I like to share things I think are wonderful. I’d say if you liked The Night Circus, there’s a good bet you’ll like these too.