Sarah Addison Allen, a novelist from North Carolina, infuses her novels with aspects of her southern upbringing to create a gripping blend of magical realism and a small-town sensibility.
Allen, (who also writes under the name Katie Gallagher) has written several books and short stories over her career, many of which have won literary awards or have topped Best Sellers lists, including some being featured on the esteemed NY Times bestseller list.
Her first mainstream novel, Garden Spells, was published in 2007, and it was a modern-day fairy tale about a magical apple tree and the family of North Carolina ladies who tend it.
This was the year that she got her big break in the publishing industry.
Booklist described the outstanding debut that Sarah wrote as “spellbindingly delightful.” The book was chosen for inclusion in Barnes & Noble’s Recommends program and went on to become a New York Times bestseller.
Allen surprised everyone when she announced that she would be making a sequel to her most famous work, as she had taken an extended break from writing.
The second book in what’s now known as The Waverley Family series, First Frost, proved just as successful as the first installment, and many fans are hoping for more of these characters soon.
If you love Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells or her other books/short stories, then you’ll love the works of similar authors Joanne Harris and Alice Hoffman. Read here to find out which books you need to check out.
Books By Sarah Addison Allen
Garden Spells follows a unique family named the Waverley’s who maintain a magical garden.
Garden Spells tells the story of a magical apple tree with a special ability and the intriguing people who defend it. Claire Waverley is the last surviving member of her family in Boscom who tends to the family’s historic garden.
Claire successfully operates a catering business using delicious flowers picked from her garden’s magical soil.
She’s particularly protective of the apple tree in her garden that can reveal a person’s most significant life event if eaten. Because of the abandonment of her mother and younger sister, she is completely alone and reclusive.
The specter of her past compels her to disregard Tyler Hughes, who develops an attraction to her. Evanelle, her old cousin, is her lone ally.
Claire devotes herself to her business and strives to keep people away from her magical garden. But her life takes a change when her younger, wilder sister Sydney and her five-year-old daughter ‘Bay’ arrive after ten years.
Society looks down upon the Waverley sisters as they strive for a better life, but without a doubt, the family’s destiny is miraculously tied to their beautiful garden.
Themes like domestic drama, magic, gardens, women’s life, family, sisterhood, and fantasy can all be found in works by this author.
Authors Like Sarah Addison Allen
English-French novelist Joanne Harris has written many works that you may be familiar with, but her big break came with the publication of Chocolat (1999), which was adapted into a film nominated for an Academy Award and starring Juliette Binoche.
Since then, she has authored an additional 19 novels, in addition to novellas, short tales, game scripts, the libretti for two short operas, several screenplays, a stage musical, and much more.
Her works are currently published in over 50 countries and have garnered many British and international honors.
With such a large catalog, even if Chocolat doesn’t appeal to you, you’re sure to find something from this author that you’ll like.
“Chocolat” is also about women who inherit some form of familial magic.
Vianne Rocher, a young single mother, arrives with her six-year-old daughter Anouk in the French commune of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes during the beginning of Lent.
Vianne has come to open La Céleste Praline, a chocolate shop located in the square opposite the church.
The family behind this chocolate appears to use some form of witchcraft to create their delicious confections, but as you can imagine some people aren’t too happy with this, especially the Church.
During the traditional season of fasting and self-denial, she subtly alters the lives of the peasants who visit her by using her mixture of compassion, subversion, and a touch of magic.
This scandalizes the village priest, Francis Reynaud, and his supporters. As tensions rise, the neighborhood becomes more and more divided.
As Easter approaches, the Church’s rituals are juxtaposed against the pleasure of chocolate, and Father Reynaud and Vianne Rocher face an inevitable confrontation.
- A fun and insightful way of describing the characters and their actions means that the reader is never bored
- Very intriguing plot
- No “black and white” characters, meaning you can sympathize with everyone, even the villains
- The descriptions of the chocolate will make your mouth water
- Quite long with parts that don’t really add much to the story, such as the exact wording of the various spells used
- Deals with some quite heavy religious themes some people may not enjoy/agree with
Themes: magical realism, fantasy, otherworldly, religion, family, sisterhood, and motherhood.
Alice Hoffman is an American novelist, writer for young adults and children, and writer of short stories.
She was born on March 16, 1952, and is best known for her novel Practical Magic, which was published in 1995 and later turned into a film with the same name.
Though she has written up to 30 books of short stories currently, Practical Magic still remains one of her most popular and celebrated works.
Readers loved the story so much that Hoffman wrote another book set in the same world, along with two short stories.
In this spellbinding novel by New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman, the Owens sisters take on the trials of life and love.
For more than two hundred years, the women of the Owens family have been held responsible for everything negative that has occurred in the community of Owens, Massachusetts.
Both Gillian and Sally have experienced this unfortunate turn of events.
When they were younger, the sisters were always treated as outcasts and teased, talked about, and pointed at.
Their elderly aunts nearly gave off the impression that they were encouraging the rumors of witchcraft with their musty abode, their unusual potions, and their swarm of black cats.
The only thing that Gillian and Sally cared about was getting away.
One will do so by getting married, and the other will do so by escaping. However, the connections that they have with one another will bring them back—almost as if by magic…
The novel Practical Magic, which is considered to be one of the best works written by Alice Hoffman, is quite comparable to the novel Garden Spells.
The book Garden Spells and Practical Magic both center on magic as their respective subjects. Even if the Owen ladies want to escape their destinies, the magic ties them back together and prevents them from doing so.
- Excellent portrayal of sisterhood and family dynamics
- Explores an old-world style of witchcraft
- Compelling characters who you want (and hope) to see do well in their lives
- Not as silly as the movie makes the story out to be
- Kind of a tragic story, which may be surprising to people who saw the movie first as that seemed quite lighthearted. This isn’t necessarily a “con” but just something to keep in mind
- Takes a bit of time to get going
Themes: Fantasy, fiction, YA, romance, witchcraft, the paranormal, tragedy, and magic
Sarah Addison Allen is one of the best fantasy and magical realism writers out there.
Her books are a work of art in many respects, as she builds these fantastical worlds through her writing while making sure to include some compelling characters and very interesting plots along the way.
If you’ve read your way through Allen’s extensive catalog of books and you’re looking for something to read next, then we can’t recommend the books described above enough (see also “Authors Like Karen Hawkins“).
Both Joanne Harris and Alice Hoffman wrote a lot in the genres of fantasy and magical realism (see also “Authors Like Alice Hoffman“), but each in a new and interesting way .
The books we have recommended above are perfect for those looking for stories that heavily focus on the family, especially women and their roles (see also “Authors Like Maggie Shayne“).
It also shows the power that women, magical or not, have to change the world around them, even in a small way.
Frequently Asked Questions
Has Sarah Addison Allen Retired?
No, this esteemed writer has not yet retired, though she did take an extended break from writing for a few years due to an illness.
She returned in 2014 by publishing Lost Lake, which became an almost instant best seller.
What Is The Sequel To Garden Spells?
After an extended break, Sarah Addison Allen retired to the Waverley family and their world in the book First Frost.
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