The Magical Novels of Sarah Addison Allen; ‘Garden Spells’ + ‘The Peach Keeper’ + ‘The Girl Who Chased the Moon’

The Magical Novels of Sarah Addison Allen; 'Garden Spells' + 'The Peach Keeper' + 'The Girl Who Chased the Moon'

Vices are weaknesses indulged in by most; avoided by a few. Some people drink, some people smoke, some people gamble, some people visit ladies of the night … and me, I read/buy books. In every room of my house you are able to find a well-loved, well-read novel, or two, or ten. When I get super-stressed, my favorite thing to do is disappear into a world unlike mine and make friends with a novel’s cast of characters. And one of my favorite author’s imaginations to visit is that of Sarah Addison Allen.

I originally found Sarah Addison Allen sitting on a clearance bin. Well not her exactly, obviously – but one of her novels, The Sugar Queen. And ever since I have been hooked. The woman writes women well. She speaks to my heart and is so dear and enlightening about love and relationships – platonic or passionate. Sarah reminds me that sometimes there is still magic  however small in the world. And when my husband bought me two more of her novels for my birthday, it only took me three days to fly through them both. Then my sister bought me one last Allen and  I blew through it overnight, not that this will be the only time I read through these tomes – these books are repeat offenders.


Garden Spells is a book that centers first and foremost on the estranged relationship of two sisters. There are other relationships touching on love and motherhood that are explored and develop within the course of the tale – but the relationship between these two sisters, Claire and Sydney, is the defining aspect of the novel. These sisters not only have trouble relating to each other, but they have trouble relating to the world on whole. Sydney is running and attempting to protect her infant child from an abusive boyfriend, and Claire is just running from everyone – afraid to let love in or feel any pain.

Some favorite quotes of note:

‘… she tasted regret in her mouth. With a frown, she spit it out.’

‘She was so wound up that frustration singed the edge of her nightgown and she set tiny fires with her fingertips.’

‘When you know something’s wrong, but you don’t know exactly what it is, the air around you changes.’

‘It was like watching a dance when only one of the dancers know the steps.’


‘The Peach Keeper’ at it’s core is a novel that explores the friendships and bonds between women of a certain age. The two main characters in this novel – Willa and Paxton – are polar opposites, in different social circles, and at the end of the day, both incredibly lonely. It was only when they are able to find each other – and accept each other’s friendship and faults – that they found happiness and security and a return to the joy of life.

Some favorite quotes of note:

‘There was a strange but universal understanding among women. On some level, all women knew, they all understood,  the fear of being outnumbered, of being helpless. It throbbed in their chests when they thought about the times the left stores and were followed. The knocks on their car windows as they were sitting alone at red lights, and strangers asking for rides. Having too much to drink and losing their ability to be forceful enough to just say no. Smiling at strange men coming on to them, not wanting to hurt their feelings, not wanting to make a scene. All women remembered these things, even if they had never happened to them personally. It was just part of their collective unconscious.’

‘Those who decided to stick with her would be her true friends. The others would just be scenery.’

‘Happiness is a risk. If you’re not a little scared, then you’re not doing it right.’

‘Right now everyone is drinking bad wine made of sour grapes and hysteria.’

‘She inhaled deeply, instinctively wanting to savor it, but then she nearly choked when it landed on her tongue with a bitter taste … that her grandmother had described to her once … was exactly what regret tasted like.’

‘Every life needs a little space. It leaves room for good things to enter it.’


This novel was probably my least favorite of all of Sarah’s novels, but still not a story to miss out on. This story does not necessarily focus on one story or one character’s dilemma, but really issues surrounding several characters in a small southern town. That is probably why this story was not my super favorite, because my attention and compassion was spread out all willy-nilly and I lost some focus. Mainly, the story is about Emily and her reconnection with her grandfather – and the people she comes into contact with throughout this small town in North Carolina. Of course, there are some magical occurrences and some witty conversations, but in the end, the story is about acceptance and friendship and love and family – not too shabby.

Some favorite quotes of note:

‘We have history, you and I. You just don’t know it yet.’

‘Your peers when you’re a teenager will always be the keepers of your embarrassments and regrets.’

‘Adolescence is like having only enough light to see the step directly in front of you, and no further.’

I know I will wait with bated breath for Sarah’s next novel and until then I will probably read through her current novels a second or third time, or read some little tidbits on this fascinating woman. As for my little vice, some vices are worth kicking – but this little literature bug of mine, I think I will revel in it for good. And I would recommend reading a Sarah Addison Allen to anyone who enjoys a little enchantment.

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