The Peach Keeper
After finishing this book, I could have easily started over at the beginning and read it again. While the characters do have love interests, the book encompasses considerably more. Ms. Allen’s writing is exceptional. It has been accurately described as lyrical for she fills the pages with images of southern traditions as well as superstition and enchantment, but her writing also evokes feelings of times gone by when family was so fundamental to our lives.
Blue Ridge Madam, the antebellum mansion built by Willa’s great great-grandfather, the founder of the Jackson Logging Company, is lost to the family when her grandmother is just seventeen. The government buys the surrounding forest and turns it into a national park, thus ruining the family financially. Unable to pay the taxes on the home, Willa’s grandmother Georgie becomes a maid in the home of her former social peers the Osgoods after being left broke, pregnant, and homeless. Georgie and Agatha Osgood remain good friends and along with a few other women in town form the Women’s Society Club in 1936.
Embarrassed by her family’s diminished social standing and economic status while growing up in the shadow of the dilapidated Madam, Willa Jackson spends most of her high school years as a social outcast and the secret joker of Walls of Water High School. She returns home after her father is killed in a accident. Ashamed of the mess she made of her life, having flunked out of college and ended up with thousands of dollars of debt, she takes the money from his insurance to open a business and settle into mundane adulthood.
Paxton Osgood‘s family has bought the Blue Ridge Madam, renovating it to its former glory with plans to open a bed and breakfast inn. Seizing the opportunity to end her presidency of the Women’s Society Club on a high note, Paxton plans the inn’s grand opening to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the club. Since Willa’s grandmother and her grandmother are the only surviving members of the original forming body, she sends an invitation to Willa, wanting her to represent her grandmother at the gala.
When the skeleton of enigmatic, charismatic Tucker Devlin is found on the property, concern for their grandmothers forges a bond between Paxton and Willa and allows both to break free of misguided familial and self-imposed roles. Paxton has to realize that she can’t let her mother’s expectations keep her from her own independence and a possible relationship with a former classmate. Willa needs to understand why her grandmother felt it necessary to suppress the wildness in her father which resulted in her also denying that part of her personality.
If you have read Ms. Allen’s other books, you know that they are filled with magic. While this book has touches of it, it doesn’t have as much as her other books. Her characterization is still as strong as ever and the story commendable. As I mentioned in the beginning, the writing is what makes this book so special. The book is peppered with descriptive paragraphs like this: “If anyone had been paying attention to the signs, they would have realized that air turns white when things are about to change, that paper cuts mean that there’s more to what’s written on the page then meets the eye, and that birds are always out to protect you from things you don’t see.” I can just hear my grandmother divulging any of these sayings and in my mind that feeling is priceless.
I can easily recommend this book to all readers who love a wonderful story filled with romance, hidden family secrets and the bonds of friendship.