Desert Isle Keeper
Spells For Forgetting
On Saoirse Island, a rain soaked isle in the Pacific Northwest, a murmuration of starlings portends death and the leaves on the trees may burst into color all at once. Here, magic is as real as greed and first love can bind two souls together forever.
Emery Blackwood and August Salt were born on the island thirty-two years ago. August fled Saoirse fourteen years ago after being accused of murdering Lily Morgan, Emery’s best friend. Now, August is back and the mystery of what happened that long ago night and the secrets the town has hidden have returned as well.
Adrienne Young’s Spells for Forgetting is the first adult novel by this best selling YA author. It’s a book I started at eight pm and read straight through until the wee hours. A story of true love, powerful women, unstable magic, and betrayal–it held my attention in a way almost no other book has this year.
Emery Blackwood was born into a family of witches all of whom have lived and died on Saoirse Island. The island is a place alive with literal magic. Emery runs her family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings, where she makes infusions for the tourists who flock to the island for its famous apples and its mystical brews.
There were two books that were passed down in the family: The Herbarium and The Blackwood Book of Spells. The book of spells was kept at my grandmother Albertine’s, on the mantle above the fireplace. That would be its home until she departed this life, and then it would be given to me. But The Herbarium was kept in the shop.
The heavy, leather-bound book was a kind of diary where the Blackwood women recorded the recipes and herbal studies that had become a kind of textbook. The thick parchment pages were covered in botanical sketches along with handwritten notes that filled the margins. It was used by every herbalist in the family, each one adding their research to it throughout their lifetime…
Emery grew up with August, Lily, and Dutch Boden. But fourteen years ago, the island’s precious orchard burned, Lily was found dead in the forest, and August and his mother vanished. As the novel opens, Emery, as she does most mornings, is leaving Dutch’s bed before he wakes and again, as he has for the past six years, asks her to marry him. August is on the ferry returning to the island to bury his mother’s ashes and, he hopes, finally cut ties with his past.
To quote Faulkner, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” For August, Emery, and the town, August’s return lays waste to the present and, in doing so, offers Emery and August the possibility of a future they believed they lost the night the island burned.
Spells for Forgetting shares its secrets slowly. No one has ever told the truth about what happened fourteen years ago. Every character in the novel–the story is told from multiple perspectives–lied to those they loved and those to whom they wished harm. Young does a terrific job of limning the dozen men and women who people this book as well as the intricate relationships between them. For most of the book, I had no idea where the blame for Lily’s death would land.
Would it be, as Emery still wonders, on August? On Dutch who now runs the orchard August’s family once owned? On Nixie, her mother’s last living friend? Or would it be Leoda Morgan, Lily’s grandmother and the town’s midwife and political power? What about Jakob, Emery’s uncle and the town’s soused sheriff? And what did Lily’s death have to do with the orchard, the island’s crown jewel, now in the town’s possession, but for generations owned by first the Morgans and then the Salts?
Young’s twisty solution is satisfying although readers who believe that evil should be soundly punished may come away somewhat disappointed. The epilogue suggests will be another book although the storylines in this one are resolved.
As for the seemingly cursed lovers, well, Emery and August’s story is the best sort of second chance, slow burn romance. They are, in the way of many a magical tale, destined to be together and whether that’s a tragedy or a gift, well, you’ll have to read the book to know. Spells for Forgetting is one of my favorite books of the year. It’s a DIK from me.