The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Southern)
Publisher/Publication Date: Bantam (3/22/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: Liked a great deal!
Did I finish?: Yes, in a day!
One-sentence summary: Two women from a small town in North Carolina discover that they share more secrets, connections, and mysteries than simply their high school past.
Do I like the cover?: Yes --it's super pretty and quite romantic.
I'm reminded of...: Maeve Binchy, Diana Abu-Jaber, Sena Jeter Naslund
First line: The day Paxton Osgood took the box of heavy-stock, foil-lined envelopes to the post office, the ones she'd had a professional calligrapher address, it began to rain so hard the air turned as white as bleached cotton.
Did... I have an impossible time limiting myself to one excerpt for my Teaser Tuesday clip?: YES. The writing is just such fun. Easy to read, but with some lovely imagery and a great deal of good humor. It was exactly what I needed during this insane work week.
Did... I have one moment in which I was really offended?: YES. More on that in my review.
Did... I finish this book in less than twenty-four hours: YES. I kept picking it up at any spare moment -- it's perfect to read in five-minute increments because it's engrossing but not so elaborate you need long stretches to keep up. Although I did also read it in long stretches because I didn't want to stop!
Why did I get this book?: Because the moment TLC Book Tours announced it, people went nuts, like Elvis was handing out tickets to his otherworldly tour. It was crazy, and I wanted to be there.
Review: This was my first Sarah Addison Allen book but I instantly understood why she has such a devoted following. The writing is comfortable and warm and easy (see my Teaser Tuesday for a taste) but I don't know if the style is magical realism. There are some magical elements but it's not hokey or odd or incredulity-straining; it just is. It feels right.
I actually knew very little about the plot and wasn't sure what to expect. What was so refreshing was the story's emphasis on female friendship. I don't know, maybe it's a Southern fiction thing, but I was actually shocked that the two females -- seemingly opposites (set up, I was sure, to be rivals) -- not only ended up becoming friendly, but weren't mean, competitive, vindictive, cruel, cold, food-obsessed, weight-obsessed or fighting over the same romantic partner. They had problems that real people have: worries about one's choices in the past, decisions in the future, family, friends, jobs. I immediately liked the both of them and it made the book so much more enjoyable because I wanted -- yearned! -- for everything to work out in the end.
This was a far more romantic book than I expected but I admit, I was all for the romantic relationships that ensued.
And now, for my single quibble. You'll see from my status updates that I was digging this book hardcore until this speed bump hit -- and it really did very nearly break my heart. I suppose this bit is going to be spoiler-y, so if you want to be wholly surprised then skip over the rest of this paragraph. Normally I hate -- loathe -- when authors make otherwise gay men straight for the right woman. It might be plausible, but it's a little too close to intimating that hard work and determination is what homosexuals need to be 'normal'. One of the characters was sexually confused -- I think that's what Allen was trying to say -- but whatever it was left me confused, and not in a good way. I totally wanted this couple to be together, but I gotta confess, when it happened, I felt a bit dirty and kind of horrified.
I was so rattled by this speed bump that I stopped working on this review to give myself some time to chew over how I felt; now, about a week later, I feel the same: great affection for this book with a twinge of slight disappointment. Up until that moment, and immediately after, the book was luminous, delightful, engrossing, and fun. I suspect many readers won't be as upset as I was -- I'm sure Allen didn't mean anything judgmental or negative -- and in the end, I can say I loved her writing enough that I'm going to find her previous books to read and I'll read anything else she does write.
*** *** ***
GIVEAWAY! I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Peach Keeper to one lucky reader! Just comment with an email to be entered. Ends 5/27, open to US/CA only.