Thursday, February 2, 2023

Adrienne Young - Spells for Forgetting

A rural island community steeped in the mystical superstitions of its founders and haunted by an unsolved murder is upended by the return of the suspected killer in this deeply atmospheric novel.
Emery Blackwood's life was forever changed on the eve of her high school graduation, when the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her best friend, Lily. Now, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence among the community that fractured her world in two. She'd once longed to run away with August, eager to escape the misty, remote shores of Saiorse Island and chase new dreams; now, she maintains her late mother's tea shop and cares for her ailing father. But just as the island, rooted in folklore and tradition, begins to show signs of strange happenings, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that no one wants to remember.
August Salt knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night that changed everything. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother's ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from the past that has never healed—Emery. But the town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises that span generations threatens to reveal the truth behind Lily's death once and for all.
Evocative and compelling, Spells for Forgetting is a vivid exploration of lost love and the unraveling of a small town and its many secrets.

Comment: This book was published in September of 2022 and until the end of the year got a lot of attention and praise from readers. I was quite curious about the premise and added it to my TBR. I decided to jump right into it this month, hoping it would be as amazing as it promised.

Fourteen years go, August Salt and his mother Eloise left the Saiorse Island, near Seattle, because of some terrible events which everyone seemed to blame on August. The island has a special effect on those who live there, and even though some leave, they can't forget the taste and the feel of the island, which is why when Eloise dies, August agrees to go back to the island to bury her ashes there.However, many haven't forgotten why he left and don't want him there, making it obviously known he should only stay long enough to do what he is there for. August also has no wish to remain but being there again and seeing people from his past, both those he cared about and those who abandoned him when things were tough, plays with his emotions... especially seeing Emery again, the girl he fell in love with and that, now as an adult, seems as beautiful and special as always. 
Will there be any possibility of a second chance for them or the islands' secrets and the death of their friend Lily all those years ago will ever haunt them?

This book was very well thought, that's for certain. I was curious about many details and I did search for the island on google maps, which I'm certain may others did too since there were already questions about the island's existence! This has to be a proof of success, I think. Too bad it's actually an invented island, otherwise perhaps it will have an even bigger amount of tourists going there than what is suggested on the story...!

The plot is full of little mysterious hints and unsaid stuff which is revealed step by step... We are led to believe that when August and his mother left, people blamed him or were convinced of his guilt over the death of Lily, a young girl, at the same time the orchard - belonging to August' grandfather - was burning and it was hard to know where everyone was. Since no actual proof was found, August could leave and no one went after him. But the people in the island are very reserved among themselves and despite having to accept tourists, they don't really want them there. Having August return, even briefly, isn't a very welcoming idea either...

I think the author has definitely got the atmosphere and the tone right. We have the feeling that something isn't right, that there is some sort of secret but not in a thriller kind of way. The story also has magical realism content, so we can assume some details might be special or difficult to accept without it being too fantastical. Still, this isn't a very heavy detail and those who don't like it or who can't accept paranormal aspects in fiction won't be overwhelmed. 

When we get the explanation for the whole mystery and why some people have behaved in weird ways... I mean... I can understand the idea and the reason but it does seem a bit melodramatic and, to be honest, it kind of downgraded my enjoyment...

The characters are developed well enough, I think their personalities and attitudes are relatively realistic to the situations they faced or the emotions they had. Emery and August are the ones whose POV we have the most but there are a few secondary characters having a chapter or two as well, and I believe those were only to confuse the reader, for they present one side which might not always be as reliable according to the things we learn as the plot develops. In fact, if there is one thing that disappointed me and made me grade this story with a lower number was how unrealistic some characters were. I'd say perhaps the idea was to stress out the "cult -like" vibe among some of them? Perhaps I just imagine too much.

Emery and August were teenagers in love, have a special connection and I can accept the HEA we see at the end. However, there was a bit too much thinking about the past and too many hints of pining and not enough scenes of pining and romantic stuff. I kind of wanted them to be more active in dealing with the feelings and the fact they were closer now and could actually discuss the past. I feel we were led to see they were in love and not shown enough scenes with it.

For me the story was good enough but one of two things might have elevated it to my personal taste: or the romance could have been stronger and the rest wouldn't feel as all over, or the people in the island could have been nicer or more likable, so the elements would feel more balanced. I guess I could just imagine it and since it didn't feel like it to me, it's as if it's just out of reach, which can feel frustrating. 
There are many interesting and well thought details, and many I liked, but I think the author could have gone one step further to make the overall effect to be better.

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