by Adrienne Young
Publication: September 27, 2022
**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
Spells for Forgetting is an incredibly beautiful novel–there are no words that can fully capture it. I had to read it in multiple sessions to fully absorb everything. I was overwhelmed by the plethora of feelings it evoked–love, longing, anger, betrayal, and, most of all, regret. I don’t think I’ll be forgetting this one anytime soon.
Richly detailed with vivid descriptions of the island, Young paints a community that somewhat lags behind the rest of the world, largely keeping to itself as much as possible. Because they depend on tourists to survive, residents must put up with outsiders who come to Saoirse ready to be charmed by the island’s history of magic and witches. Centered around an unsolved murder, the book focuses on the repercussions it has had on the island of Saoirse and its community, particularly August Salt and Emery Blackwood.
August was accused of the crime but never charged. Years after leaving, he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, and several omens arrive with him. Emery, the girl he left behind, faced the community’s scrutiny alone and now risks what little stability she has built when August arrives. August and Emery are the main narrators, but several individuals have a chapter or two of their own and add further depth to the story and the mystery that unfolds. The timeline alternates between before and after the murder, driving home how painful it is for August and Emery to be within each other’s vicinity.
I went in expecting magic and a murder mystery, but it was the potential second chance at true love that clung to me. I am simplifying the complexity of the storytelling, but at its core, the book is a love story. August and Emery’s romance was heart-wrenching. They were devoted to each other and made plans for the future, but the suspicions against August and his sudden disappearance waylaid their plans. While their chapters resonated with pain and longing, it was the depth of Emery’s love and August’s betrayal that tore at me. Emery never got over August, but he seemed to have moved on without her. I was anxiety-ridden throughout the book, unsure if this would lead to a second chance at love or if they would remain separated with a bittersweet ending.
This was nearly a perfect read. One of my critiques novel is the length of time it took for the murder to be solved. It’s a pivotal part of the story. Because it changes the life trajectory of all the characters, solving it should have been more integral to the story. It is not until the latter half of the book that it suddenly seems important enough for the characters to solve. I thought August’s arrival would have prompted this immediately, but it doesn’t. Additionally, I disliked the time jump toward the end. After spending so much time with the characters and being invested in the story’s outcome, I wanted a more definite ending before jumping ahead.
In all its complexity, Spells for Forgetting is a simple story of two people in love and the circumstances that separated them. It’s the atmospheric writing and Young’s storytelling that distinguishes itself from similar books. This is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read this year.