Monday, August 01, 2011

But, Mama, he’s a magic man...

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen:

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.

Summary from GoodReads.

In Walls of Water, North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Madam was just one more decrepit Southern mansion before Paxton Osgood’s family and the Women’s Society Club decided to resurrect it to its former glory. Despite being a descendent of the former owners, Willa Jackson isn’t too thrilled by the Osgoods or any of the Walls of Water society mavens, but she is happy the Madam is getting her due.

"Whenever I would get too nosy as a child, my grandmother would say, "When you learn someone else's secret, your own secrets aren't safe. Dig up one, release them all." – The Peach Keeper

The Madam’s restoration takes a dark turn, however, when the body of Tucker Devlin is uncovered. A door-to-door salesman and con artist, Devlin blew into town in the 30s and captivated its inhabitants with his face, golden promises and an odd ability to command the elements. Now seventy-five years later the man who claimed to have peach juice in his veins is discovered buried under the estate’s lone peach tree, right next to a cast iron skillet – the possible murder weapon. And the most likely suspect? Willa’s grandmother, now trapped mostly in her mind by Alzheimer’s and living in a nursing home.

Devlin’s death was the birth of the Women’s Society Club, and it will take Willa and Paxton – granddaughters of its founding members – working together to discover what happened in Walls of Water so long ago. Along the way they will have to come to terms with their lost dreams, town roles and the true meaning of friendship.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen has been making the rounds as the perfect summer novel for book club set, which normally would make me walk in the other direction. Maybe it’s too many years in the business or too many years just hearing the phrase “book club pick” associated with what publishers consider women’s fiction, but the whole marketing process has been done so often that it strips the books of their uniqueness. Not the book’s fault, but with so many other choices out there, it makes it easy for me to pass on by. Sell me on why I would like it, not why it won’t anger the eight other ladies in the group.

And this is what Katy the Pages Worth Remembering tumblr did by posting several passages from the novel:

"Throughout marriages and children, Willa and Paxton would still call each other almost every night, sometimes just to say goodnight. Sometimes Willa would know it was Paxton without her ever having to say a word. She would be in bed, Colin asleep beside her, and the phone would ring and she would pick it up and say, ‘Good night, Paxton. I’m here if you need me.’

That, they knew, was true friendship.

And they knew, if you’re lucky enough to find it, you hold on to it.

Hold on, and never let it go."

A little sweet and sappy? Yes, but that was the mood I was in when I added The Peach Keeper to my library list. I’d had enough books with mean girls and infighting, and I wanted something soothing.

The Peach Keeper is a gentle novel whose magical realism followed in the same vein as Hoffman’s Practical Magic. Despite the magical elements, this is a novel about two women understanding who they are and how important the connections they have with others are to their wellbeing. As Paxton’s grandmother explains her current and enduring friendship with the Alzheimer ridden Georgie:

“We are friends,” Agatha snapped. “She’s still here. I’m still here. And as long as we are we’ll always be friends.”

Connections to last a life time.

This is the heart of the book: friends are there for each other, they stand up for each other and they support one another in times of need. Sweat and idealistic at times, but comforting to read none the less.

The Peach Keeper didn’t break new ground or blow me away, but it did make me smile while I sat on my porch swing enjoying the summer that just finally got here. I don’t necessarily agree with everywhere the story wandered, but its slow Southern drawl pulled me in.

Recommended for readers looking for a long drink of sweet tea on a hot afternoon and book clubs (of course) who want something less edgy, more heartwarming and not Nicholas Sparks.

You can purchase The Peach Keeper from these fine retailers: Powells, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Your Local Indie, or you can pick it up at your local library.

Book Source: The library.  

No comments: