The Peach Keeper
Willa Jackson does her best to live down her past as the Joker of Walls of Water High School. Now the owner of a hiking store that caters to tourists visiting the small town in North Carolina, she keeps to herself, believing that the quiet life she now leads is what her father and grandmother always wanted for her. When the invitation to the grand re-opening of the Blue Ridge Madam --- a mansion built by Willa's great-great-grandfather, who died in poverty after losing his logging fortune --- arrives in her mailbox, her simple life starts becoming more complicated than she cares to admit.
Paxton Osgood, a former classmate of Willa's and a Walls of Water socialite, is the one who took on the task of restoring the Blue Ridge Madam to its former grandeur with big plans for its future. Feeling that the mansion is a living piece of history belonging to the town, she goes out of her way to make it perfect, which is also a reflection on Paxton herself. Paxton is a woman hiding her unhappiness in her need for perfection, especially when it comes to her looks and people's perceptions of her. The only thing she worries about is what others will think, her own unhappiness meaning little to her. However, Paxton suffers deeply when it comes to matters of the romantic kind: loving a man she believes she can't have and trying to convince herself that friendship will be enough.
While Willa and Paxton are not what anyone would call friends, they know each other from high school; beyond that acquaintance, they have little in common. Knowing that her Nana Osgood and Willa's Grandmother Georgie were among the original founders of the Women's Society Club, which she now leads, Paxton asks Willa to join her at the grand re-opening event. She wants to honor their grandmothers as the last two surviving members of the society. Willa tries her best to avoid attending, but in her need for perfection, Paxton is relentless and wants to do what she can to honor them. When Willa and Paxton stumble upon a secret involving both of their grandmothers, they find out they may have more in common than they ever imagined possible.
Sarah Addison Allen is an author who infuses so much into her writing. Tradition is an overriding theme, but it's far from the only theme she uses to create such depth that you forget the world around you and fall into the story, barely emerging until you've reached the last page.
In THE PEACH KEEPER, Allen takes a small town with a history some would like to leave in the past and slowly draws out a story through their superstitions, family myths and complicated relationships. There is a small element of magical realism, but she uses it in such a way that it reminds you there is more than can be seen but doesn't leave you with questions about why things happened. It's just enough to make the characters realize there is more to life than what most believe.
One thing I enjoy about Allen's writing is that she makes the setting another character. Walls of Water is a town with buried secrets that emerge slowly, forcing its residents to make decisions and come to new understandings about their lives. The friendships, love lives, and the need to know who they are make her characters lovely people you want to know more about. When the story ends, you'll be left satisfied but still wanting more, which is a fantastic feeling. If you haven't read any of her books yet, I highly recommend THE PEACH KEEPER.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on March 28, 2011
The Peach Keeper
- Publication Date: January 10, 2012
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Bantam
- ISBN-10: 0553385607
- ISBN-13: 9780553385601