Enter a grieving woman, an overbearing mother-in-law, an unusual great-aunt, a handsome he-got-away-once man, and a free-spirited kid. Add a ghost, magic charms, a mysterious alligator, and a few side love stories, and you’ve got yourself a Sarah Addison Allen novel.
I’ve been a fan of Allen’s for years. This is my sixth walk into her mind. If you’ve never read her, be warned: her books are not high-brow, book club-type affairs. They’re entertaining, sweet, will make you smile, and normally have some moral to the story. (And a lot of them center around food, so don’t read hungry!) This one was about moving on and making the best of your life, not surprising with the author’s diagnosis of cancer a couple of years ago.
That said, this was my least favorite of Allen’s books. The storyline was there, but not flushed out enough. (In her defense, there is a short prequel eBook that I haven’t read yet. Maybe that rounds it out a little more.)
The main character is Kate, a woman who lost her husband the year before. (I’ve been reading a lot of dead husband/moving on wife books lately. I’m not sure if that says something about me or the industry at the moment.) I appreciated that Allen didn’t make Kate’s marriage perfect; it made the story more realistic. I get tired of the sappy stories about broken-hearted women who finds it a shock when she’s attracted to a man years later. The guilt, the kids, the blah blah blah. Allen didn’t do this. It was refreshing. Kate loved her husband, grieved him in an (in?)appropriate way, and moved on. That’s how life goes.
I felt like Allen was following a few too many characters, leaving the reader unable to really get to know any of them. I loved all the characters, and all their back stories (quirky, as usual), but they just weren’t as deep as normal, which led to Allen having to tell instead of show a lot in order to get her point across. A longer book would’ve been able to accommodate everyone.
The thing that keeps me coming back to Allen is the peppered magical realism in her books. This one, however, I think was a little lacking on the magic. Maybe because there were several elements of it and no central magic? I’m not sure. It just didn’t do it for me this time.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, just not as much as some of her other works. And I will be reading her next one.