First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen is one of the best books I have read in FOREVER! It left me with tears in my eyes, wanting to tell you, Dear Reader, please read this book!
First Frost is a family story about the Waverley women living in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina. When the story opens Claire is making ‘beautiful, jewel-colored confections the size of wren’s eggs and covered with powdered sugar’ instead of running her usual catering business. Claire discovered the recipe for the hard candies in an old cookbook passed down from her grandmother Mary Waverley. When the candy soothes her daughter Mariah’s laryngitis, Claire begins making the candies as ‘add-ons’ to the birthday and anniversary parties she caters. Soon the honey and lavender filled candy takes over in popularity to the point that her catering business falls to the wayside.
The Waverley women struggle through autumn with all its’ attendant craziness knowing that once first frost arrives, on Halloween night, all will be well and life will settle down to some normalcy. Or what constitutes normal for the Waverley women. Claire creates food that makes people laugh, cry, or fall in love. Sydney brings either good or bad luck that lasts for weeks when she cuts a person’s hair. Bay, always feeling lost and out of place, knows simply by looking at a thing, exactly where it belongs. As the garden’s apple tree, which blooms only at first frost, showers them with a literal snowdrift of apple blossoms, Bay finally begins to feel that she does have a place that is truly her own. And Mariah? Her gift remains undiscovered until the last few pages when the family gathers in their hidden garden for the annual First Frost party.
Throughout this delicious tale an elderly man named the Great Banditi approaches Claire in an attempt to destroy the life she has built for herself, a young man threatens to remove the blanket of protection Sydney has snugly drawn around her daughter Bay, and a young woman named Violet brings both heartbreak, joy, and a special gift of her own.
If you decide to read First Frost you may want to read Garden Spells first as it begins the saga of the Waverley women, though First Frost weaves its own spell regardless of the prequel. I give this book 5 Daisies for the sweet taste it leaves in my mouth. “Take a bite. I dare you.”
Sarah Addison Allen
St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2014