My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen 2015 St. Martin's Press 320 p
(Available in audio and hardcover at the library, and out in paperback, too.)
First Frost is a tender, delicious novel perfect for fall. It's a sequel to Sarah's first book, Garden Spells, but stands fully on its own. Claire Waverly started a retail candy business with her magical lozenges; it's a huge success, but is it really rewarding? Claire's niece Bay is fifteen and weaving her own way through the Waverly magic and mystique. The Waverly women always grow unruly before their apple tree blossoms in the fall, topsy-turvy to the rest of the world...and then, a stranger comes to town, with sinister intent.
The author is in full flower here, just like the Waverly's cranky apple tree. With the lushness of summer, the ripeness of fall, the coziness and crispness of winter, and the promise of spring, Allen's story is a Thanksgiving feast for all seasons, rich with flavor and sensation. It's rare to find a perfect book, where the promise and the practice match with no false notes. Is it the greatest novel ever? No. But it is a perfect example of magical realism: better than life, with just enough ballast to give you the vision to see how you might get some of that magic into your own. Better than life: life-affirming. Allen's gentle humor and flavorful prose are a recipe for delight.
Give yourself a wish-fulfilling pleasant few hours in a world where dreams come true, true love lasts, and happy ever after is real—after a few bumps and bruises, of course—and settle down with a pumpkin latte, a slice of fig-and-pepper bread (recipe included in the book) and First Frost.
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