Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 36.
- Review Date: 2009-08-10
- Reviewer: Staff
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. (Oct.)
Small town wisdom
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 more of an old-fashioned wise women). 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.
Linda White is a writer and editor living in St. Paul, Minnesota.