[amazon_image id=”0553807226″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Peach Keeper: A Novel[/amazon_image]Sarah Addison Allen’s novel [amazon_link id=”0553807226″ target=”_blank” ]The Peach Keeper[/amazon_link] is the story of the unlikely friendship of Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood, who are linked through shared family history and not much else. Willa’s great-great-grandfather built a house called the Blue Ridge Madam in Walls of Water, North Carolina. In 1936, Willa’s family lost the house. Years later, she feels oddly drawn to the Blue Ridge Madam, now in the hands of the Osgood family. Paxton Osgood is the president of the Women’s Society Club and is planning the unveiling of the newly restored Blue Ridge Madam at the society’s gala. She asks her twin brother Colin, a landscape architect, to come home to Walls of Water to landscape the Blue Ridge Madam. A family secret binding the Osgoods and Jacksons is unearthed when Colin’s crew removes a peach tree and begins digging deeper to plant a live oak and finds a suitcase, a frying pan, and a skull belonging to a magic man named Tucker Devlin.
I could barely put this one down. It’s hard to describe it. It’s part chick lit, I suppose, but also part magical realism, ghost story, mystery, and romance. It’s a perfect summer read. Allen’s characters are well-drawn and likeable. The setting of small-town Walls of Water with its tourists and shops alongside ancient town families was pitch perfect. I think perhaps no one does gothic like Southern gothic, and though Allen’s writing style is completely dissimilar, this book is an oddly cogent mashup between William Faulkner and Joshilyn Jackson. Family secrets, grand old Southern mansions, friendship, and devilish charmers are good building blocks for stories. I liked both Willa and Paxton as protagonists, and I found Colin, Sebastian, and even Tucker Devlin charming. I would definitely read more of Allen’s books. I picked this one up after reading Stephanie’s review. Darlene at Peeking Between the Pages has another good review.
I’m not sure this book is for everyone. Some readers will be turned off by the chick lit aura or the magical realism, but I found it utterly charming and completely Southern. Parts of it reminded me of a book I have deep affection for called [amazon_link id=”0807114103″ target=”_blank” ]I Am One of You Forever[/amazon_link] by Fred Chappell. If you are a fan of Sarah Addison Allen’s, give Fred Chappell’s novel a try. It’s harder to find and was published by a smaller press, but it’s a gorgeous book.
This book has enough of the macabre to qualify for the Gothic Reading Challenge.