Welcome to Mullaby, NC, "where giants exist, wallpaper changes on its own and lights skip across yards at midnight." Her mother dead, 17 year old Emily Benedict has nowhere else to go but to the home of her grandfather, a man she never knew existed until now. Her new home takes some getting used to, far above and beyond the adjustments would have to make after finding themselves for all intents and purposes orphaned. Mix in the mingled fear and resentment with which she is treated, a legacy left behind by her mother, and it's a recipe for disaster. Only Emily's neighbor, Julie Winterson, seems to make any sense, but she has her own secrets she wishes to keep hidden until she can escape in six months once her self-induced exile has been concluded.
This was a magical tale, perfectly blending mystery and romance with just a hint of magic. I enjoyed watching Emily unravel her mother's secretive past and thrilled as Julie bloomed from a closed and angry woman into once who allowed herself to experience love and the happiness that accompanied it. But it was Allen's descriptive powers that really made this story. The Mullaby lights, the mood wallpaper, the way the senses came visibly alive were wonderful touches that really draw the reader into the world of Mullaby. There was more than enough reality to not overpower one with the magical realism that flows throughout the novel, and just enough magic to make the reader wish to climb inside the book to stay.
I have not had the pleasure to read anything by Sarah Addison Allen before, so I quite enjoyed this book, despite seeing numerous reviews citing that it was not as good as her first two novels. However, I can see if this a very strong formula from which Allen does not veer that it could get repetitive, leaving one with the sense that all her books are the same story, given a minor makeover. I'll be on the lookout for more of her books, but I'm not going to rush into them so that I can enjoy each for what it is.