Review: The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen is the magical follow up to 2007’s Garden Spells (reviewed HERE). It’s sweet but not sappy, nutty but not ‘chock full of nuts’. It’s like the perfect dessert.

Josey Cirrini, sheltered rich girl in a North Carolina resort town, lives alone with her overbearing mother and a housekeeper. At 27 she has no friends, no social life, and is busy doing her mother’s bidding in an effort to atone for the horrible way she behaved as a child. Everyone in town knows who she is because her late father built the ski resort that lifted the town out of poverty. She is secretly in love with the mailman and meets him on the porch each day but does nothing more than say hello. She’s living a small little life, driving her elderly mother to her various appointments and social events, and living for the moments alone when she can indulge her massive sweet tooth and gorge on mallomars or oatmeal pies from the secret stash in her closet.

Enter Della Lee, one of the eccentric townfolk who is a bit rough around the edges. She shows up one morning in Josey’s closet and won’t budge. Della Lee threatens to make Josey’s secret public, so Josey begrudgingly allows her to stay. Della Lee takes up residence in the closet and soon she is nudging Josey out into the world to make friends and have a life.

As in Garden Spells, magical things are happening all over town. One character, Chloe, Josey’s first real friend, has an interesting relationship with books. They appear out of nowhere and are the exact books she needs at the moment they appear. One rather persistent book, Finding Forgiveness, makes its first appearance on page 36 and continues to appear throughout the story.

“She accepted it from then on. Books liked her. Books wanted to look after her.

She slowly picked the book up from the apartment floor. It was titled Finding Forgiveness.

She stared at it a long time, a feeling bubbling inside her. It took a few moments for her to realize it was anger. Books were good for a story or to teach a card trick or two, but what were they really? Just paper and string and glue. They evoked emotions and that was why people felt a connection with them. But they had no emotions themselves. They didn’t know betrayal. They didn’t know hurt.

What in the hell did they know about forgiveness?”

The Sugar Queen is a bit predictable, but I can overlook that because it has something to say about relationships and forgiveness, and it says it in a rather beguiling way. Like the perfect dessert, the book has a satisfying ending. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys magical realism.

Sarah Addison Allen’s website can be found HERE. You can find discussion questions HERE.

I received The Sugar Queen through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program. I’ll be passing this one on to Softdrink at the newly named Fizzy Thoughts blog (formerly Blond Mementos) who originally turned me on to Garden Spells.

You can read Julie’s review from Girls Just Reading HERE.

Review: Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

 Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen is an enchanting little book.  It is the story of two sisters, Claire and Sydney Waverly, who have been estranged for many years.  Claire is living in the family home in Bascom, North Carolina, when Sydney arrives with her daughter Bay in tow.  Sydney is running from Bay’s abusive father and has nowhere else to go.  Claire, a caterer, has trouble getting close to people for fear they will leave.

The Waverly’s have a reputation around town for being different.  They possess special gifts.  Bay has an uncanny ability to know where things belong, from forks to people.  Evanelle, an elderly cousin, is compelled to give people things that they will need in the future; things that will alter the course of their lives (although she never knows how they will be used when she gives them).  Claire’s gift is her very special culinary skills.  She uses edible flowers and herbs from her garden in her cooking, which can make people remember or forget,  fall in or out of love, and any number of other mystical things as she sees fit.  Sydney is determined NOT to be special as only a Waverly can be, but soon it’s clear that she is gifted as well.  And then there’s the Waverly apple tree, which has it’s own brand of magic.

I was captivated by Garden Spells.  It is romantic and sweet and the story flows nicely.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy or magical fiction.  Is magical fiction an actual genre?  If not, it should be.

Garden Spells comes out in paperback in April.  Sarah Addison Allen’s new book, The Sugar Queen, comes out in May.

A big THANK YOU to Softdrink for sending me this little gem.  I’ll be sending it off to another favorite bloggy friend of mine to keep the magic moving around.  I wouldn’t want to be the one to break the spell.