Saturday, October 1, 2011

Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (one of my favorite "feel good" authors)

Sarah Addison Allen has the most amazing ability of pulling me into a story.  She starts with a hint or glimmer of magic and mystery, enchanting the reader and leaving us wanting more.  I love her written style.  Reading her work is as effortless and enjoyable as spending the day with a best friend.  You laugh, you cry, and you have faith – in her characters, in the storyline, in magic. Her characters are well-developed and her stories are both beautiful and intriguing.  Can you tell I am a fan?
This story begins with a magical invitation which keeps popping up regardless of how many times Willa Jackson tries to hide it from her sight – as if it is teasing her, beckoning her to attend the event to be held at the newly-renovated Blue RidgeMadam.  The old  mansion was once owned by Jackson’s ancestors, but has long since been out of their possession and the family name is no longer synonymous with wealth and notoriety.  The house now belongs to the infamous Paxton Osgood, a former classmate of Willa’s, whose money and class leave Willa bitter, and a bit envious.
Willa Jackson is a woman desperately trying to act “adult” and repress – or atone for – her prankster reputation in high school, which she believes ultimately led to her dad losing his job.  She wants to redeem herself and – although he died in an accident – prove to him, or his memory, that she can be someone he could be proud of.  She stays in the town of Walls of Water to provide for her grandmother, who is under care for Alzheimer’s, but she wants nothing to do with her old life, especially Paxton Osgood.
Paxton Osgood has spent her entire life trying to live up to the standards put on her by her mother and herself.  Her quest for perfection has affected her personal life and left her tightly wound.  On the surface, Paxton and Willa are complete opposites, but deep down they want the same things: love, acceptance, and a good friend.
When renovations uncover the body of a salesman from sixties years ago, the two women are pulled into the mystery surrounding his death.  An unlikely friendship develops in their search for answers and as they allow themselves to let go of their pasts and the restraining weight of their self-inflicted personal expectations, they find love and come to understand who they are and what life is all about.
Although it isn’t my favorite of her books, The Peach Keeper is still an enjoyable read.  I would have liked more mystery, suspense, and magic surrounding the uncovered crime.  There were traces of it, but I was left feeling a bit disappointed in this aspect.  The romances were sweet, if predictable.  The strength of the story lies in the women’s journey of self-discovery.  I do recommend it for adults, however, as it is a quick read for someone who needs something light and uplifting.

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