I'm the first to admit that I'm critical of books. Having been in the business for nearly 20 years, I've heard all the "rules" and dos and don'ts. The thing about the rules and such is that it can steal the life from a book. You can edit the magic right out of a story...and yet, I'm the first to throw a book at a wall if I see too many rules broken or if it appears as if the writer is so ignorant as to be careless with a story. Or an editor too lazy to do a proper job of copy edits. I can be vicious when I read- condescending and filled with such evil feelings as envy, resentment (as in why this book and not mine? Why this author and not me?) bitterness, pique, incense, exasperation, etc. (Yes, I can go on and on. It's all part of being human and being an artist.)
So, as a rule I don't critic the books I read. It's not fair to bring my own self pity into the equation. Unless I read something so extraordinary that I have to talk about it. A story that envelops me in it's magic and destroys the envy with the sheer joy a good story can create. "Garden Spells" by Sarah Addison Allen is just such a book. When it was recommended to me, I sighed. Here was an author who-if the hype is true- made the NYT Best Seller list with her very first book. (Up flares the envy, etc. My thoughts turn to why her? What's so special about this story? It would feel so good to toss it against the wall and think evil thoughts about who she could have possibly slept with to make the best seller list...)
Then I read it...
MAGIC. The story is pure unadulterated southern magic that filled my heart with joy, my eyes with tears and the sweet story magic pushed away all evil thoughts- filling my artist well with bliss.
What's so special about this story? Simply put it's charming. The author is clearly a story teller, drawing characters who are rich and full and a community that is imperfect and inexplicably real. Then she put a little magic in the brew-a touch of love and pulls the reader right into that other dimension, that special place where good stories live.
I recommend this author and this book. Buy it if you can. Get it from the library if you are cashed strapped. Bring a little magic into your world.