First Frost By Sarah Addison Allen
St. Martin’s Press, 2015 291 pages
Each autumn, as the temperatures drop and the leaves turn in Bascom, North Carolina, the Waverly women become restless. Relief comes with the first frost of the season, when the temperamental apple tree in Claire Waverly’s garden finally blooms.
First Frost picks up the story of the Waverly sisters, Claire and Sydney, ten years after we first met them in Garden Spells. Both sisters are happily married, and on the surface, their lives seem to be great. Claire has started a successful candy business, and Sydney owns a busy salon in Bascom. Beneath the surface, however, there are growing fissures of dissatisfaction.
Claire stumbled into the candy business almost by accident. What started as an attempt to relieve her daughter’s persistent sore throat ballooned into a major enterprise when Southern Living ran a feature story on Claire’s confections.
Consumed by candy making, Claire has set her catering business aside. As happy as she is to watch Mariah’s college fund grow, the business is leeching the joy out of Claire’s life and causing her to doubt the truth of her Waverly gift.
Sydney’s hair salon is thriving. Her Waverly gift is the ability to give each customer the perfect hairstyle, and clients wait weeks for an appointment with Sydney. Sydney is happier than she ever thought she could be in Bascom.
More than anything, Sydney wants a baby. She wants to give her husband a son. She can see a little boy following Henry around the dairy farm, learning the business just as Henry learned it from his own grandfather. She grows more desperate with each passing month, worried that she will never be able to have another baby.
Bay Waverly, Sydney’s fifteen-year-old daughter, is learning to navigate her own Waverly gift. For as long as she can remember, Bay has known where things and people belong. Now she has lost her heart to Josh Matteson, and she knows that she belongs with him. The trouble is that Josh does not seem to know Bay exists. Like her mother and aunt, Bay is hanging by a thread as she waits anxiously for the first frost, predicted to fall on Halloween.
Trouble arrives in Bascom like a chill in the air one week before Halloween. Aging con man, Russell Zahler, has information about Claire and Sydney’s mother that will shake Claire’s faith in her own identity. In the wake of his visit, the Waverly women must find a way to hold their family together through their most difficult season.
Sarah Addison Allen has done it again! First Frost is a delightful read, filled with beautifully descriptive passages and unforgettable characters. Allen has an amazing ability to infuse ordinary, everyday life with just the lightest touch of magic and plenty of Southern charm.
Revisiting the Waverly family was like catching up with old friends. Garden Spells finished on a “happily ever after” note, but First Frost reminded me that “happily ever after,” is only the beginning of the rest of the story. Here’s to hoping there is more to come!
Heather Holley-Hall is Alamance County Public Libraries’ Associate Director of Operations. She may be reached at 336-570-6730 or firstname.lastname@example.org.