Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

It's the dubious distinction of Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam - built by Willa's great-great-grandfather and once the finest home in Walls of Water, North Carolina - has stood for years as a monument to misfortune and scandal. Willa has lately learned that an old classmate - socialite Paxton Osgood - has restored the house to its former glory, with plans to turn it into a top-glight inn. But when a skeleton is found buried beneath the property's lone peach tree, long-kept secrets come to light, accompanied by a spate of strange occurrences throughout the town. Thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the passions and betrayals that once bound their families - and uncover the truths that have transcended time to touch the hearts of the living.

This is the third book of Sarah Addison Allen's that I've read, and may be my favorite so far. The plot had all the usual elements of self-discovery for the characters, magic, and romance, but there were also elements of mystery introduced, which is really what made this book stand out. It increased the tension, made me even more curious as to what would happen, and was resolved perfectly. The only thing that bothered me about the plot was that I thought one aspect of the mystery was revealed too soon, but when the whole thing was explained, it made perfect sense.

Then there were the characters. As always: perfect. Willa was so unique and dynamic, and I loved the way she didn't undergo any drastic changes over the course of the novel, but just became more aware of who she really was. I loved the way Paxton believed in the importance of family, home, and heritage while still finding her independence over the course of the novel, and her relationship with Sebastian, also a very layered and complex character, was incredible. Her brother, Colin, was lovable and fascinating, but her grandmother was the member of her family that stood out the most. Agatha Osgood is one of the most incredible characters I have ever encountered: strong, loyal, and determined. Her friendship with Willa's grandmother, Georgie, was probably my favorite part of the book.

The writing in this book was even better than in Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen; this was the first time I really noticed the writing as more than a way to convey the story. There were sentences that were so profound and true I'll never forget them, descriptions that stole my breath, and little details that brought the book to life - things like the coffee stain on Willa's tee-shirt, the straps on Paxton's high heels, and Sebastian's furniture. Even though I've finished the book, I'm still living in its world, because I was just completely immersed in it.

This is one of those books I can't imagine anyone disliking; I highly recommend it to anyone. Sarah Addison Allen is a master of writing, and I can't wait to read more by her.


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