Posted February 17, 2015
By Sarah Addison Allen
By SIYUAN TONG
Continuing the life of two Waverley sisters in her previous book “Garden Spells,” Sarah Addison Allen in her latest book “First Frost,” maintains high quality writing and constructs another story of love, trust and hope of the family living in a small town of Bascom, N.C., for female audience.
Never mind how loose the content was presented — listing stories of several family members without much clear focus — the book created a sense of warmness that has the power to make readers smile at the very end.
Born and raised in Asheville, N.C., it seems natural for Allen to set the scene in a place she knows well, and that is probably why she did such a successful job makes the story alive by careful use of details:
“…Her hand going to the collar of her white polo shirt with the Pendland Street Inn logo embroidered on the chest” and “the neighborhood was quiet in that way only the cold could make it, as it freezing sounds before the hit the ground.”
All these bring something tangible, engaging and amazing to readers.
Being influenced by her journalist father, Allen determined to write after graduation. With her first publication — “Garden Spells,” a story with the same setting but another time frame, her first break came in 2007. She published three other bestselling books in more recent years, but she was diagnosed late-stage breast cancer at age of 39. She returned to write in 2014, “First Frost” is her second book since remission. Her encouraging experience is probably what fills her story with hope and life.
The Waverley family is known as a family with magic. Being a Waverley means having something different, which has been embedded into every Waverley’s identity. Unlike the magic power in “Harry Potter,” “First Frost” includes magic in a different, but cuter way — Claire makes food that is not only delicious, but influences people’s moods; Sydney has this special talent to deal with hair; and Bay (Sydney’s daughter) knows where everything belongs.
There is also this unusual apple tree that blooms and produces apples in abnormal season, as well as the Waverley’s tradition to celebrate the first frost when the tree blooms in the fall–“first frost meant letting go…everything was okay after that.” All of this makes both the whole family and the book seem more mysterious and interesting.
The plots of the novel reveals in a slow pace, engaging you into an attractive journey to explore and wonder what will happen next. Until the last several chapters, you have no clue what all this is about. It has the magic to let you keep flipping pages without stopping and just being fascinated and touched as the story develops.
Claire Waverley started a new venture, Waverley Candies. Having magical power as usual, her candy lets people recall lost love, find happiness, and soothe throat and minds. However, as her business grows, she sacrifices her everyday joy with her husband and daughter.
Sydney Waverley, increasingly wants to have a baby for her husband Henry, is loosing her pleasure as she keeps trying.
Bay Waverley becomes obsessed with a guy naming Josh Matteson, who she knows she belongs to, and wishing Josh could realize it in the same way she does. However, Josh just seems to keep missing the key.
In the mist of everybody’s troubles, a mysterious man shows up and tries to shake the very foundation of the family. Feeling stressed and fearful, the Waverleys just cannot take it any longer and need to make choices that are crucial to their lives and their very being.
The stories of the Waverleys are a complex mix of bitter and sweet — the two tastes in constant conflict; and finally the sweet takes over along as the first frost comes.
“First frost would be over and things were always set right by then,” she wrote.
Relief and laughter come at the very end. It makes you realize that it is not necessary to have a grand extreme account to affect the heart; a well-portrayed small story is already enough.
Instead of using a dull form of narrative by telling the story one by one, Allen mixed everybody’s stories in such a smart and unique way that you don’t feel confused while the story moves around from character to character, but you feel more engaged and more curious as you read along.
Readers share the characters’ emotions and mood changes as the book goes forward. There are struggles and hurt, but they are all covered by love, trust and hope at the very end. The story makes you feel real and makes you both cry and smile along with the characters.
- “First Frost”
- By Sarah Addison Allen
- Hardcover, $25.99
- St. Martin’s Press
- Jan. 20, 2015
- First Edition
- 291 pages