Title: The Peach Keeper
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Source: Personal library
Summary (From book flap):
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 between the haves and the 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.
My Two Cents:
I'm going to try really, really hard not to gush completely and be somewhat objective about this. Allen is one of my favorite authors, in case you missed the reviews of her three previous books I did last year, and I wait impatiently until another of her novels comes out. I bought this the day it came out (Thanks to a Barnes and Noble gift card leftover from my birthday!) and read it practically in one sitting. Her books are like that.
This book has all the hallmarks of what I love in Allen's writing -- Great characters for whom you root, magical realism, writing that just seems to float off the page and into your imagination. There really are no surprises here, and I loved that. It's like putting on your favorite pair of jeans and curling up on the couch in front of a fire: Warm and comforting and you know you'll feel good when you're finished.
Although I liked Willa, Allen's central character, a lot, I think my favorite was Paxton. I liked that she was far more than what she appeared to be. Her family pressures led her to lead one particular life, one where she's always put-together and going a million miles per hour. But, deep down, she wants something totally different and she must figure out a way to make that happen. I liked that she had interesting quirks and insecurities (The constant list-making reminded me of a lot of people I knew) that I could picture on any number of people.
If you're a fan of Allen's work, or if you're just looking for a light, feel-good read that blends a little magic into the story, I'd recommend this novel.