I'm a fan of Alice Hoffman's magic realism, but her books have a dark side to them. I prefer Sarah Addison Allen's books, with darkness often in the past, and hope in the future. The optimist in me prefers the lighter books. I've been a fan of Allen's stories since Garden Spells, and, her latest, The Peach Keeper, didn't let me down. I'll admit, it was easy to see where this book was heading, but Allen's books are enchanting while you're reading them, and satisfying when they're finished.
Willa Jackson has been a rebel and outcast in high school, but she returned home to Walls of Water, North Carolina when her father died, settled into her childhood home, and opened Au Natural Sporting Goods and Cafe, even though she had no interest in the outdoors life. She just preferred the tourists who frequented her store over the "glittery townies." So, she wasn't happy to receive an invitation from a classmate, Paxton Osgood, to attend the celebration of 75 years of the Women's Society Club. The club had been renovated into an inn, but it was the house, the Blue Ridge Madam, in which Willa's grandmother had grown up before the family lost their money in the 1930s.
Paxton Osgood, as president of the Women's Society Club, actually wanted to honor Willa's grandmother and her own grandmother, the only surviving founders of the club. But, Paxton hadn't talked to her grandmother about the property, and when Paxton's twin brother, Colin, arrives to supervise the removal of an old peach tree, a skeleton is discovered in the ground. Paxton's grandmother feared the Madam, and tried to let the property die. But, she knew "Secrets never stay buried, no matter how hard you try."
From the opening page when Paxton's invitations are delivered to wrong houses, people are cut, and the invitations move around, it's obvious magical changes are taking place in Walls of Water. And, they are changes that will affect Paxton and Willa the most, granddaughters of those Women's Society Club founders. Allen's latest book is a story of mystery, magic, friendship and love, and the power of friendship and love to conquer evil.
As I said, this book isn't a book that leaves you in suspense as to what will happen with the main characters. Instead, it's a book that enchants you will superstitions and magic, the scents, and tastes, the colors and textures of life. The scent of lemon pie connected to a person is the smell of regret. And, when the Women's Society Club ate food with lemon, they had an odd compulsion to reveal closely guarded secrets. Claire Waverly from Garden Spells even returns for a brief scene as a caterer in this book, with her food with unusual powers. Then there is the smell of peaches at an altitude where peaches shouldn't grow.
Most of all, The Peach Keeper is a story of friendship between women, and secrets kept for the sake of friendship. It's a story of generations, and the secrets that can't be forgotten. As Allen said, "There was a strange but universal understanding among women. On some level, all women knew, they all understood, the fear of being outnumbered, of being helpless." Two generations of women understood that fear, and understood the need to stand together, to protect each other. Magic, secrets, and friendship. They all seem to go together in Sarah Addison Allen's books, including the latest, The Peach Keeper.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
My reviews are only my opinion, and do not reflect the views of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
I will not review self-published books, and, at the present time, do not accept books in e-book format.
My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.