There was something about this cover — it’s a bit busy, but there’s something alluring about it, making me curious as to what’s inside — which drew me to pick this one up as my next encounter with Sarah Addison Allen. And, from my limited experience with her as an author, it’s pretty much exactly what she’s become popular for: a love story about broken people trying to heal, mixed with Southern charm, and just a dash of magical realism to add some spice to the story.
Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed the book. In fact, I came away again wanting to make and eat food, in this case cake and pulled-pork sandwiches (though I’m a Memphis, not North Carolina, barbecue girl). I enjoyed the Southernness of the book as well; the summer humidity, the slowness of the days, the friendliness-bordering-on-nosiness of the townspeople. But it also felt like it was more of the same in a different wrapper: the character coming home to find a mystery and dysfunction that she has to overcome. The heartbreak, the consequences and the trying to heal from said heartbreak. The magical homegrown elements; this time a mood-changing wallpaper, a sweet sense that allows characters to see/feel when cake is being made; and the biggest mystery of all … which I won’t spill because it is interesting to see how it all plays out.
That said, it was an enjoyable read. Allen does have a way of drawing you into her world, of making you care about her characters, of entrancing you with her storytelling. It’s still the only magical realism that I can stomach without cringing — still can’t explain why, though — and I found that the book called to me whenever I put it down, until I finally gave in and let the family run wild while I finished.
Which means, in the end, I can’t complain.
Rated: Mild — there’s one tasteful sex scene, and a little bit of mild swearing.