(Waverly Family #2)
by Sarah Addison Allen
It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree… and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.
Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.
Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.
Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?
When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.
Lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen’s enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.
The Waverly family first appeared in Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. Two sisters, Claire and Sydney, had to come to terms with their pasts and each other. In a town where families are known for a singular trait, the Waverlys are known for their strange bits of magic. Clair can influence people through her cooking. Sydney can change your day around with a haircut and her daughter Bay knows where everything belongs.
First Frost picks up ten years after Garden Spells. Claire and Sydney have married the men they were dating in the first book, and Claire has a daughter Mariah who seems as unremarkable as her father, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in Claire’s book.
While there is a mysterious man who blows into town and hangs around the Waverly home, discovering the truth of that subplot wasn’t as important to me as seeing who life has gone on for the characters I fell in love with years ago. Most stories end on a happy note and Garden Spells definitely did that. Seeing that ten years later the sisters still have struggles specific to their personalities made them more realistic, in a fictional town that is highly unrealistic due to the magical realism imbuing the tale.
Claire’s catering business has turned into a candy business that is in such high-demand that she has stopped using the flowers from garden as ingredients so isn’t even sure if the candies have the same power as before. She doubts her own specialness, especially as a Waverly who are expected to have special gifts. She appreciates that her husband doesn’t see the magical side to her family and loves her for all her ‘normal’ attributes but fears that everything she considered as part of her identity is fraudulent.
(On a fun side note, there are a handful of scenes from her husband’s point of view who clearly sees the magic in the Waverly family and knows his role is to let Claire know there is more to her than that.)
Sydney has made peace with coming back to her hometown. She is married to a man who loved her since they were children, has adopted her daughter, and groundings her. But she can’t help feel like she hasn’t done enough for him or her or someone. She wants to give him a son of his own, knowing his close relationship with his grandfather. She wants to save the young receptionist at her business who she hired knowing she was unreliable and a single mother. Sydney wants her daughter to be happy despite yearning for something she should never have.
There are happy endings but in real life an ending is followed by a new beginning. The beauty of First Frost is knowing that two women who got happy endings reappear with problems because problems don’t stop happening just like lovely, happy moments don’t stop happening.
Bay’s subplot is an extension of the concept of identity and the roles we are given. Claire and Sydney continue to struggle in their individual ways with being a Waverly and now it’s Bay’s turn. She knows who she belongs with and it’s a boy who should never end up with a Waverly. Those families just don’t mix. Eventually they begin to talk and she learns that he isn’t sure he wants to follow the family lineage just because it’s expected. He’s a lot like Sydney who resisted being a Waverly and once she accepted it, still does it in her own way. Bay knows she’s a Waverly – it’s where she belongs – so her struggle is knowing something is true and having no power to make it happen. This is a typical concern of most teenagers, hell, most people. It’s amplified by Bay’s gift of knowing where things belong.
First Frost is beautifully written with lyrical turns of phrase that play into each character’s personality and the magic that infuses their lives. Without spoiling anything, it ends on a happy note which was very satisfying but I know that if we revisit the family in another ten years, things will have changed, problems will have appeared, and happiness will still be an option. These are things we should all remember in our own lives.