Now that I’ve read this and the author’s most recent book, The Peach Keeper, I can cross her off of my unfinished series and authors list.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen.
I adored Allen’s first book, Garden Spells, and have been picking up her books on and off since then. They’re mostly set in modern-day North Carolina, with little bits of magic woven into the otherwise ordinary world. In this book, teenaged Emily Benedict moves back to her mother’s home town of Mullaby, North Carolina, following her mother’s unexpected death. She’s never met her reclusive but actual giant of a grandfather before, and knows nothing of the scandal that caused her mother to leave. Next door, her mother’s former classmate, Julia Winterson, lives in a tiny second-floor apartment. She’s just running her father’s old diner to pay off the mortgage, before she goes back to New York to fulfill her dream of opening up her own bakery. Even though there are many good reasons not to reach out to Emily, Julia does: Julia was an outcast and Emily’s mother ran with the popular girls. And Julia can never forget the boy and the memories she ran away from before she left Mullaby herself. Still, Julia’s cakes with their cutting-edge flavors have been gaining a following in Mullaby, and her cakes send the smell of love and hope through the air, whatever their flavor. Meanwhile, Emily sees from her window the mysterious Mullaby lights that appear only in the dark, and makes friends with the handsome Win Coffey, decidedly against his father’s wishes. Another touch of magic comes from the wallpaper in Emily’s room, which used to be her mother’s: it changes to reflect what it thinks the occupant needs. Some days, it’s fluttering butterflies, others, snow-covered pine trees.
So twenty-year-old problems are resolved, and there’s romance and reconciliation for both of our female leads. The only thing that really struck a false note for me was when Win confessed that he had been sneaking into Emily’s bedroom at night to watch her sleep, and she doesn’t find this creepy. Memo to authors: breaking into people’s houses to watch them is creepy, stalkerish behavior. It is not romantic. Stop doing it. Aside from that, this had just the right notes of integrating past and present in a slightly magical, feel-good story that made a perfect summer read.