Synopses & Reviews
This is a town where the shoes in the window always fit, where you can buy a love potion at the corner shop, and where the woods at the outskirts of town just might be the door to another world. And, of course, there's Autumn, Avening's beloved resident witch. From what's known of its mythical founding, Avening has always been a haven for people who are a little bit different, a place where they can come to discover what makes them so special. When Autumn receives news that she's been promoted to a higher coven, she also learns she has to replace herself. But who in Avening is in tune enough with her own personal magic to take over the huge responsibility of town witch? Autumn has a list of thirteen women and men who just might have what it takes-but how can she get them to open their eyes to the magic in their lives? This endlessly surprising and heart-warming debut is the story of coming to terms with the magical things we take for granted every day-our friends, our community, and, most of all, ourselves.
"Foster's clumsy but ingratiating first novel is set in the 'enchanting' little town of Avening, off the coast of British Columbia. Beyond its much-touted charm, Avening holds magical secrets, the most prominent being town witch Autumn. Autumn's bucolic lifestyle is interrupted when she finds out she's being admitted to a higher coven in an unknown location and that her first task is to find a replacement for herself among the women of the town. From there, readers meet a cast of offbeat women, each with her own special talents: shy Ellie, who can make herself invisible; middle-aged Stella, the local advice columnist, who is also a healer; and Molly, who has been hiding her preternatural gifts since she was a little girl. Unfortunately, Foster's attempts to charm and enchant are too heavy-handed and better suited to a YA offering, and her intriguing plot is subverted by wooden dialogue, predictability and an amateur approach to characters." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In the tiny town of Avening in the Pacific Northwest, life hums with a peculiar sort of energy. Some call the town enchanted; others call it quirky. But all would agree that it is a special sort of hamlet, populated by some rather intriguing people. Perhaps the most intriguing is the town witch and wise woman. An individual of extraordinary, even magical talents, Autumn Avening is ready to retire-and must find a replacement from among the local denizens. With one year to choose, Autumn begins keeping an ever closer watch on her friends and neighbors, looking for just the right candidate. Through her eyes, we get intimate glimpses of the locals of Avening-strong men and women whose stories are both heartwarming and heartbreaking. VERDICT
Loose ends in Foster's strong debut indicate sequel potential for those who enjoy following characters from book to book. Fans of Alice Hoffman (Practical Magic
) and Joanne Harris (Chocolat
) will love getting to know the residents of this cozy, charming little town. Highly recommended."
Library Journal (starred)
"Small-town witch looks for her replacement. The precise significance of Autumn's residence in the village of Avening isn't clear until the end, but it's evident from the beginning that she loves her quirky town (the novel's most appealing element) and all its mysteries. Located on an island in the Pacific Northwest, Avening is one of those idyllic spots with cozy bookstores and cafes- and, in this case, a rather high proportion of residents with special gifts: astral projection, mind-reading, invisibility, spell-casting, that sort of thing. Though individual abilities are generally kept secret, and the town seems like any other, all that magice lends the air a certain electricity. When a sister in the ancient coven of Jaen comes to tell Autumn it's time to leave her post, she's given a list of Avening residents from which she must choose a coven of 13 and a leader. Ellie seems an unlikely prospect. Withdrawn and sometimes invisible (literally) to the town, she is overtaken by a spell at the annual winter solstice party and loses the ability to speak, from that point on singing everything she needs to say. Ellie's friend Stella has a more straightforward talent. The granddaughter of an Appalachian mountain woman, she keeps a fully stocked herb cellar and is attempting to catch lightening in a bottle. Ana has until now lived a life without magic, but she goes to Autumn for help when she begins an extramarital affair; she and her lover learn how to bend time and memory so as to extricate themselves from their messy situation. Piper, another candidate, is diagnosed with terminal cancer and begins travelling to a different dimension, where she might escape death. A charming debut in the tradition of Practical Magic and The Witches of Eastwick"
"Autumn has been the resident sage of the town of Avening for longer than anyone can remember (some may call her a witch or a shaman, but really she is no more of an oldfashioned wise woman). When Autumn is called to find a replacement, she decides to hold an essay contest for would-be candidates.
While the entries themselves prove to be both surprising and illuminating, this is not merely the story of Autumn finding her replacement-it is also a multifaceted tale of the women (and in some cases, girls) vying to take over for their beloved Autumn. Each candidate's specific experiences unveil-or in some cases, release-the power that is deep within each of them. Above all, this magical book is a testament to the power of women. There is a great preponderance of beautiful people in the book-almost all of the women are striking, and you start to wonder if there must be something in the Avening water. But beyond that, Foster's overall message is clear: each of us has a gift. Whether we choose to exercise it or how we choose to do so is ultimately up to us. Foster has a facility for the poetic, and her characters feel comfortable and real from the beginning. When Autumn Leaves is a fantastical coming-of-age story, but mostly, it reminds us of the importance of faith-both in ourselves and in that which we cannot see."
In Avening, a tiny town on the Pacific coast, it's hard not to believe in magic.