Every book lover longs for their perfect marriage of themes. My personal favorite is a tightly woven mix of southern women and magic—that mystical, enchanted kind of magic. Karen Hawkins’ new novel brings all the drama of small-town southern women together with the glittering gift of magic to craft a beautiful story that feels very much like a modern fairy tale (for grownups).
The Dove family is special in many ways. Having founded the town of Dove Pond, the family’s roots grow deep in this part of North Carolina. Now, I’m a romantic about small towns, being from one myself, so I was delighted by Hawkins’ inclusion of all my favorite hallmarks—quirky characters, mysterious backstories, and plenty of southern charm.
There are three main characters you’ll come to love in the Book Charmer: Sarah, Grace and Travis.
Sarah is a Dove. Her family is known for producing seven daughters every generation, all with special gifts that bring good fortune to the town. Being the seventh daughter, the one traditionally bestowed with the best gift, she feels responsible for the current lack of prosperity in Dove Pond. Sarah can communicate with books, she hears their wants and desires, and they often speak to her about a very important destiny. I loved Sarah’s unique ability and spent a good deal of time pondering what sort of voice my books would possess. Ultimately, I decided that all my favorite stories would sound like my grandmother, who’s distinct, raspy voice was incredibly suited for performance. The voices Sarah hears are always different, specific to each book, and tend to stoke her restlessness. But when a woman moves to town with her small family, Sarah begins to sense that big changes are on the horizon.
Grace is one tough cookie. She spent her childhood holding onto her baby sister, Hannah, as they bounced from one foster home to the next. When they end up on the doorstep of Mama G, with the smell of a pancake breakfast hanging in the air, Grace and her sister are finally able to plant roots. Grace is the kind of character that makes you cheer as she grows into a happy, successful woman. After her sister’s death, Grace must take on her niece to raise, so she moves the family to Dove Pond. This is this place where Mama G was raised, and something more akin to fate than happenstance has brought them home.
Travis, a former soldier, proves to be more than just a neighbor to Grace and her family. Having wrestled with the effects of PTSD for years, the man has finally found peace in living a simple life. He is the poster child for the concept of mindfulness, in that he only dwells in the present. I’m a big advocate for yoga and meditation, so I loved the author’s nod toward mindfulness. Despite his efforts to keep everyone at an arm’s length, Travis finds himself full of compassion for Mrs. G, entertained by the sarcastic niece, and feeling something like warmth for the stone-cold woman who takes care of everyone but herself, Grace.
The Book Charmer reminded me of my love for libraries as a child. My friends and I would walk to the local library, a small space nestled into the corner of an L-shaped shopping plaza and get lost among all the possibilities. I never felt more grown-up than when I got my first library card, and I never stood any taller than when I had new books tucked under my arm. Hawkins’ novel took me back to the place where I searched through rows of dusty stacks to find a hidden gem.
Is the book a fantasy? No, not exactly. It’s more of a story about the relationships women make and nurture, within their own families, and with their friends and community. It’s about the magic that exists everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. It’s about the magic we make. For every person who has ever treasured a book, found magic within its pages, and felt it come alive in their hands, this story will fill your heart with joy. The Book Charmer tells a wonderful story about a small town sprinkled with enchantments, so go on, pick this one up and treat yourself.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Karen Hawkins is a native southerner who grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee where storytelling is a way of life but recently moved to frosty New England with her beloved husband and multiple foster dogs. Learn more about Karen on her website and follow her on Twitter.
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