I LOVE this author. Every single thing she has written has lightened my heart and made me smile. She delves into the genre of magic realism, which so few adult authors can do well. Her books are full of whimsy, romance, and enchantment, but set in the real world. Allen makes you believe that there is something more to life than meets the eye and that there are places where special miracles and magic exist. I don’t care how old we get, how life’s realities weigh us down, how mature we are supposed to be - everyone wants to believe this. Everyone has an inner child. Everyone has a deep, hidden need for a little magic.
Her current novel is no exception. If I could compare the book to a food, it would be her one of the main character’s signature cakes, the Hummingbird Cake. It is light, fluffy, and delectable! You can practically taste the confectionary sugar and smell the aroma of vanilla as you read the words.
The purpose of this book is not to bury you in harsh realities, compete with the great literary canons, or wear you down with layer upon layer of hidden meanings. It is not for the critical reader, but for the optimist. It is written for those of us who need to escape life for a while and remember what is important. Allen’s books always seem to come back to one central theme and that is remembering who you are and where you come from. Because no matter how far we travel in our lives, we are linked to the people and the places of our youth. (Whether we like it or not.)
Her characters are eccentric, unique, and realistic in their search for meaning and most importantly, love. Julia is a baker, returning to her hometown – Mullaby, North Carolina - to save the family business, but she is desperate to leave as soon as she can pay off the restaurant’s debt. She ran from the past as a teenager, but in coming home, has to face old scars.
Emily - a serious, thoughtful teenager, has arrived in Mullaby after the death of her mother, only to find that her mother did not leave on the best of terms. She finds her grandfather to be a gentle giant – literally – who tends to hide from life and she must venture out on her own to prove to the town that she is not the same person as her mother. And perhaps, if she is lucky, she can redeem her mother in their eyes, or at least, bandage old wounds.
Along the way, other quirky characters are introduced, such as the mysterious Win Coffey and the impossibly handsome Sawyer Alexander. And the secrets surrounding the quaint town of Mullaby and the notorious Mullaby lights will begin to unravel.
As I have said, my love of a book is based on characterization and Allen does a phenomenal job. As a reader, you will care for these people. She does not create characters without flaws, but real people who have faults to overcome and you cannot help but root for them.
As you read, you will imagine dancing magical lights in the glow of the moon. You will picture the trail of warm, sugary scents wafting from Julia’s kitchen, calling to those with the power and sweet tooth to see it. You will watch forbidden love blossom.
Mullaby is a place you want to be. So my advice is to curl up and escape there. You won’t regret it.
***On a side note, I highly recommend her other two novels as well: The Sugar Queen, and Garden Spells***