Saturday, April 07, 2012
The Peach Keeper (Sarah Addison Allen)
The Blue Ridge Madam is a town landmark, built by Willa Jackson’s great-great-grandfather who lost his fortune when the logging business died out. Now the Women's Society Club, under the leadership of golden girl Paxton Osgood, has restored it and has invited Willa to the big day. But that's before they find a skeleton on the grounds, and both women -- never friends -- must now band together to solve a mystery that threatens both of their families.
There's an awkward but steady friendship that develops between Willa and Paxton, as the novel delves into the beauty of discovering friends and allies when you’re at a vulnerable stage of your life. These two women not only had shared history; they had shared interests and beliefs as well, including the importance of family and the love for their small town. It's the gradual unfolding of their friendship that I admired most in this book, rather than the inevitable romance between Willa and Paxton's twin brother Colin. In fact, I was a little more interested in the secondary romance (though somewhat improbable to me) between Paxton and Sebastian than I was in the former. Willa and Colin were just too cookie-cutter to me. There were no surprises there, though I admired how their relationship issues were later addressed.
Both Willa and Paxton become privy to their family secrets as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery and I like how these were slowly introduced into the story, even if it was easy to guess how things really happened. I also thought the whole police involvement in this cold case was glossed over but I suppose it wasn't the purpose of the novel. The Peach Keeper is meant to celebrate women and their friendships: friends like Agatha and Georgie, and later, Willa and Paxton. The tone and themes in this novel is somewhat heavier than the ones I've come to associate with Sarah Addison Allen's work but they still make The Peach Keeper worth a quick afternoon read.