The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen is one of my anticipated releases in 2011. I have loved Sarah Addison Allen’s books ever since I read Garden Spells. Her books are my first foray into magic realism and I keep saying I should read more from the genre but I haven’t had the chance to do so. I couldn’t help but read The Peach Keeper as soon as I could get my grubby hands on it because I knew I was going to like this one just as much as her other novels.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam — built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home — has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.
But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate — socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood — of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.
For the bones — those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago — are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.
Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families — and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.
Wow, look at that summary. Quite long, isn’t it? I think it provides enough background about the story and I don’t want to add anymore because I don’t want to give too much away. Going into the novel, I had a feeling it was going to be different from Sarah Addison Allen’s usual because of the mystery involved. It is a bit different in that sense and also because the subtle magic and the mouth-watering descriptions of food that has become Sarah Addison Allen’s signature was absent in this one. The usual themes of friendship and romance are still present though, which made me a very happy reader because those are what I love in her books. As with her other books, the perspective changes based on the two main characters, Willa and Paxton. Both of these women and even the men in their lives, Colin and Sebastian, went to the same high school together. It’s funny how they were never good friends when they were teenagers but their lives now intersect in ways that they never expected. All four of these characters went through big changes in their lives throughout the course of the book. My favorite chapter was the one called, “The Joker, The Stick Man, The Princess and The Freak”, when these four unexpectedly had a meal together and the fascinating conversation that ensued. I guess it’s not surprising that another favorite scene of mine was when there was a cameo from a Garden Spells character.
I’ve said this before and I’ll probably end up saying it again: there’s something about Sarah Addison Allen’s books that make them good comfort reads. I’ve seen some people classify her books as chick lit or contemporary romance and while that makes sense, I find that her characters have much more depth than other characters in that genre. Like in The Peach Keeper, there is romance in the story but it was never the focus. It was more about the characters learning more about themselves and developing relationships that let them grow as persons more than anything else. The Peach Keeper is a delightful read and it’s the kind of book that I feel like I could recommend to just about anyone. I was afraid I was going to experience a reading slump because I wasn’t feeling the books that I’ve picked up lately. The Peach Keeper got me out of that almost-slump. If you’ve never read a Sarah Addison Allen (her name is quite a mouthful and I keep repeating it in my review) book before then you could start with this one. If you have recommendations similar to her style of writing, please mention it in the comments. I’d love to read more books like this.