Author: Adrienne Young
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.
Spells for Forgetting immediately appealed to me as I enjoyed Young’s work through the current three Fable novels (Fable, Namesake, and The Last Legacy). This one is also done a little differently as it takes place in a real-world type setting and features older characters. The atmosphere and feel of the story fit fall and fit the rainy weather outside when I read it. The story takes place on Saoirse Island in the Puget Sound area with a small-town community and strange magic lurking about. The atmosphere of Saoirse is well-described, and it was easy to picture the setting.
The story follows Emery Blackwood and August Salt who were separated as teenagers fourteen years ago after the murder of Emery’s best friend, Lily Morgan at the Salt family orchard. In present day, Emery is running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings on the Island of Saoirse. After leaving the island after Lily’s death, August returns to fulfill his mother’s last wishes to have her ashes on the island. Both August and Emery were in love fourteen years ago, but Lily’s death separated them. Now that August is back, the two of them are forced to face each other again to reconnect and deal with their past traumas.
Although the novel mainly uses the perspectives of Emery and August, there are multiple throughout using secondary characters. While it did not work for me regarding connecting to these characters, it was a nice approach to help the reader piece together the mystery behind Lily’s death. The pacing is slower at the start where the atmosphere and characters are set-up. The community and main characters are established as the mystery slowly builds. There is the present timeline along with some flashbacks to gain a sense of what happened. This part was well-done, but it did take a bit to get to and not how what was expected. As the mystery of Lily’s death slowly comes together, this part follows a usual pattern in novels where it takes place in the last quarter before the novel completes. For the ending, I can see some readers finding it satisfying and others who wanted more. For me, I was the latter where I liked the idea behind it, but I just needed a little bit more time to connect to it and walk away feeling satisfied. Overall, this was a nice easy read with a nice balance between the mystery and characters.
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Delacorte Press, for the opportunity to read this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**