This week I read The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen. Allen is one of my favorite writers, and this book, although not my favorite of hers, did not disappoint. Thirty year old Willa Jackson is a native daughter of Walls of Water, North Carolina. Her family was wealthy, but they lost everything when their logging business folded due to local lands becoming part of a national park. The timing could not have been worse for the family as the depression depleted the rest of their wealth. Paxton Osgood buys Willa's family's ancestral home, The Blue Ridge Madam. Paxton is restoring the mansion and converting it into a boutique hotel to accommodate Walls of Water's tourists. Tourism has become the town's top industry; the scenic national park has hiking trails with magnificent views of several gorgeous waterfalls. These falls give Walls of Water its name as well as its eerie mist and fog that surround the town. The inaugural event planned for the restored Blue Ridge Madam is the Women's Society Club's 75th Anniversary Gala. Willa's Grandmother Georgie, along with Paxton's Grandmother Agatha, are two of the founding members of the club. But only days before the gala, the bones of a mysterious, magical traveling con artist, Tucker Devlin, are found on the grounds of The Blue Ridge Madam. A suitcase full of clues point toward Willa's family and her grandmother; Devlin stayed with them for a few weeks during the summer of 1936. Now his spirit is restless, and odd things begin happening in Walls of Water.
All of Allen's books contain elements of magic and the supernatural, and this one has a malevolent ghost. We know this because birds gather and try to protect people from evil things unseen. When people receive their invitations to the gala, there is a spike in paper cuts; when a person gets a paper cut there is always something more written on the page than meets the eye. When the air turns white around a person, things are about to change. The magical elements in this book are a bit more subtle than her other books, but I like how the whispering spirits compel people to tell truths and reveal secrets they normally keep hidden away. As we learn from the book, once one secret is set free, all other secrets soon follow! However, the true magic of this book is the enduring friendship of Georgie and Agatha. Their purpose in forming the Women's Society Club is touching, and it is a lesson on how we should protect and love our girlfriends.
There are two love stories in the book, and I liked both story lines. Willa begins dating Paxton's visiting brother, Colin, and Paxton falls for the androgynous Sebastian; all four were classmates at the local high school. I think it is very easy to fall back into our high school personas when reunited with our classmates, unfortunately, and I did not find fault with that part of the plot. What did bother me a little is that so many issues could have been resolved between the couples if they had only sat down and talked. The reader is left to ponder whether or not anything would have been resolved with these couples had the spirits not influenced the revelation of all secrets. I also wonder if there is a bit more to this story because I would have liked more closure. I would love to read more about these two couples.
One pleasant surprise in The Peach Keeper is one of the secondary characters, Rachel Edney. She runs the coffee bar in Willa's Au Naturel Sporting Goods and Cafe. Rachel is an amateur anthropologist. She studies and documents people's coffee orders and determines personality traits and emotional needs based on what they order and how they take their coffee. Her observations are spot-on, and, being the coffee addict that I am, I would love to read a book about Rachel and get an update on Colin, Willa, Sebastian, and Paxton. I would also want excerpts from Rachel's notebook. Another surprise in this book is that Claire Waverley from Garden Spells makes an appearance catering a luncheon.
If you would like to read my post about Allen's third book, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, click here. I also give a bit more of an overview about Sarah Addison Allen's writing in it.
Remember to share your book love in our What We're Reading Linky Party. Bonnie will be hosting this month, and, as always, it will be on the twentieth.
Until next time...