Friday, April 08, 2011

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

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.

Sarah Addison Allen's website is http://www.sarahaddisonallen.com/

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen. Bantam Books. ©2011. ISBN 9780553807226 (hardcover), 288p.

*****
FTC Full Disclosure - I requested a copy of this from the publisher so I could read and review it.

16 comments:

Ingrid King said...

I can't wait to read this - thanks for the great review, Lesa!

bermudaonion said...

This sounds fabulous!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Ingrid. As I said, I'm a big fan of Sarah Addison Allen's books.

Lesa said...

Kathy,

I guess I never put it in my review because I just couldn't word it right, but her books touch my soul. I hope you enjoy it.

Kay said...

I have been meaning to read this author's books for such a long time. Everyone has told me to. In any case, I loved your statement about the author's books, "magic, secrets and friendship". How can I resist??

Beth Hoffman said...

I have this on my list. Great review, Lesa!

Have a lovely weekend.

Lesa said...

Oh, Kay. You should at least try her books. Start with Garden Spells and see if you like her.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Beth. It's our kind of book.

It's supposed to be dreary here this weekend, so I've already been to the grocery store. I'm making up pasta, with no intention of leaving the house. I'm going to spend the weekend reading and watching my Celtic Thunder DVDs.

Ann Boles said...

Your description made me think of Practical Magic. Maybe this snowy weekend will be a good time to read it.

Lesa said...

In this section of Arizona, Ann, it's supposed to be a rainy weekend. Perfect weather for it. If you liked Practical Magic, I think you'll like Sarah Addison Allen's books.

Kris said...

I've heard excellent things about this book and the author. I am determined to read one of her books this year and see what I've been missing.

Lesa said...

Kris,

Start with her first one, Garden Spells. If you like that one, you'll probably like her others. It's still one of the best, although many people liked The Sugar Queen better. I'm a fan of Garden Spells.

Marlene Detierro said...

Your review has me dying to read this as soon as possibl! Lucky I bought a copy not long ago :) it'll be my first of this author's as well, even though I own a couple of her other books too.

Marlene Detierro (Eureka Joe's)

Lesa said...

You've been missing out, Marlene. I hope you enjoy it!

Best Reviews for Phoenix SEO website said...

If you enjoyed Liz Michalski's Evenfall and of course, Alice Hoffman, then you should pick up The Peach Keeper right away. Oh, and The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, too. All equally magical, heartwarming, and delectable.

Lesa said...

Great description of many of these magical realism books - "delectable".