Friday, July 1, 2011

Book Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

I love, love, love Sarah Addison Allen.  All of her books are set in the South (beautiful already) and have a hint of magic in them.  This one centers around the renovation of a historic home, the Blue Ridge Madam, located in a small North Carolina town.  As the home is renovated to become an inn, secrets are uncovered and long-standing prejudices are cast aside for friendship.  A mystery emerges about the young woman who lived in the Madam before it fell into disrepair, her best friend, and the magical young man who changed their lives.  You can, as always, read a more detailed summary on the book's Goodreads page. 
Beautiful.  Sarah Addison Allen has a way with words that is truly evocative of the South.  She creates perfect Southern dialect without lapsing into phonetic spellings and stereotyped catch phrases that people think represent Southern dialect.  Her descriptions are beautiful and she does an excellent job of bringing small towns to live in an authentic way.  Her way with language is hard to describe, but the term "magical realism" is just perfect.  I love the small touches of magic she adds to her books, and her writing style is equally magical.

Entertainment Value
Perfect combination of mystery and romance for a light read.  I cared about each character and felt connected to the town as a whole.  I wanted to be friends with these people.  I also loved that Allen avoided the trope of getting out of the small town and seeing the world.  Of course, as in all small towns, there are characters who leave and characters who stay, but those who stay aren't portrayed as sad and lonely and desperate to experience life.  Or the character has to move away to realize the goodness of home was there all along.  But in this book there's a point where one character asks herself what's so wrong with loving home and staying there and living your life in the same small town and never wanting to leave.  This is the point where I truly fell in love with the book - it just so perfectly describes me.  I love living in a place where I grew up (not where I spent my teen years) and the familiarity and having family nearby and knowing everything.  I don't want to go to New York and I don't need to have a big fancy career to realize that small town life is fine too. 

This is another one I listened to on audio.  I liked the narrator, although it took me a while to get used to her accent - it didn't strike me as completely genuine, but I got over it quickly.  It's one that I will probably end up buying in print as well because I loved it so much and because I want to look up the quote about small town homebodies and write it down.  It's a great road trip book (I listened to it on the way to Decatur and back for last month's book signing).  It's another I'm happy to add to my list of "would rather listen to than watch tv". 

My verdict
The one critique I have heard regarding this one is that it's too sweet.  It's true, the book isn't deep, dark, and depressing.  But does a book have to be to have value?  I mean, sure, I enjoy darker fare sometimes, but I would be so depressed if that's all I ever read.  Light, happy endings, romance, and friendship aren't things that make a book poorly written.  I wish people could get past the idea that anything that isn't boring or depressing is so hopelessly low-brow that it's not worth their time.  This is an excellent example of a book that is both well written and highly entertaining and to me, it's a huge bonus that after reading it you feel better about the world.  So, while the literary types are enjoying their gloomy books, I highly recommend that those of you who can enjoy a little bit of happiness and romance in your reading pick this one up.  This is also one that I can confidently recommend for all my readers - I wouldn't cringe over giving a copy to my mother, so you can be sure it's a fairly safe read as far as sex and language are concerned.


  1. This was my first SA and I really enjoyed the combo of magic and Southern charm.

  2. Wow! Another great book from my favorite author. Gosh what more can I ask for.