by T. Mack
On the heels of Galentine’s Day, I thought it would be a great time to highlight a book that takes female friendship and does some very mysterious and magical things with it. The Peach Keeper, by Sarah Addison Allen, is part mystery, part magical fantasy, and part buddy cop adventure. It’s a wonderfully strange tale of two women thrust together into a reluctant friendship in an attempt to uncover a decades-old mystery, protect their families, save their investments, and possibly, discover what true friendship really is.
Sarah Addison Allen, who brought us the enchanting Waverley Sisters of Garden Spells and First Frost weaves another magical tale with The Peach Keeper, which features two young ladies named Willa and Paxton. Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood both live in Walls of Water, North Carolina and have known each other since going to school together as girls. However, they are not friends. They do not run in the same circles and they have no reason to interact. Except that Paxton is currently renovating and restoring the rundown mansion known as the Blue Ridge Madam and hosting a gala in celebration of the event. As it happens, Willa’s great-great-grandfather built the house and her family lived there generations ago before their fall from grace. Because of this, Willa is invited to the soiree, though she is disinclined to attend. Before the festivities can commence, however, a skeleton pops up, not from a closet, but from underneath the property’s lone peach tree. And long-buried secrets threaten to be unearthed right along with it. Willa and Paxton must now come together to discover who the skeleton is, what his presence means, and how their families’ connection seventy years ago may be at the heart of the mystery. In the meantime, they must also contend with all the unusual goings-on about town and their own personal drama.
This book checks the boxes I’ve come to associate with all Sarah Addison Allen’s titles: 1) It focuses on two women who come to know each other better and become the very best of friends, 2) It features a gentle form of magic that is non-threatening and based on superstition, old wives sayings, and natural food remedies, 3) The women always have a natural strength and magic they didn’t know about at the beginning, and 4) It’s always set in a small town.
All these aspects tend to give Allen’s books a similar feel. So if you like one of her books, you’ll likely enjoy the others. If you try one and feel like it was a bit too homey, sappy, or Hallmark-y for you, you should probably leave the rest alone as well. I happen to love the style and feel of Allen’s work. I find it cozy and warm, like a comfy chair and soft blanket next to a crackling fire on a fall evening… with a nice cup of my favorite hot tea. I know that’s a lot of description for the feeling of a book, but I can’t help it. It’s genuinely how Allen’s books make me feel. And The Peach Keeper was no exception.
While the book wasn’t my favorite or even in my top three of Allen books (that honor goes, in order, to Garden Spells, First Frost, & The Sugar Queen) it was still a wonderful read. It was mysterious and interesting and uplifting. And it was, like all of Allen’s books, one about female friendship. However this time, the theme of friendship was highlighted overtly in a way it normally isn’t. The characters actually speak on the topic within the story. One of them even gives a speech on it. That’s how important the topic of female friendship is to this story. That’s why it’s a great choice for this week or any time.
RATING: 4 Shields
I recommend nearly any book by Sarah Addison Allen. But I recommend this one when it’s time to focus on friendship. If you’re wondering when those times are, the broad answer is, of course, all the time. The more specific answer, however, is this schedule of friend-centric holidays throughout the year:
National Best Friend’s Day 2019 – Saturday, June 8 (always June 8)
National Friendship Day 2019 – Sunday, August 4 (always the 1st Sun in Aug)
National Women’s Friendship Day 2019 – Sunday, September 15 (always the 3rd Sun in Sep)
Make a Friend Day 2020 – Tuesday, February 11 (always Feb 11)
Galentine’s Day 2020 – Thursday, February 13 (always Feb 13)