Saturday, August 10, 2013
Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
Title: The Peach Keeper
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Rating: 3 Stars
Unfortunately, The Peach Keeper lacks the magic that made Garden Spells such a breath-taking read. And by magic, I mean that in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Literal because Allen is renowned for her magical realism contemporaries and, sadly, this novel lacks the magical component of that term. While there is magic in this piece, it lies in the past, seated in legends and long forgotten history. It isn’t a daily part of life and, as such, the novel did suffer for it. Metaphorical because although this book contained all the right components, mixed together, they just didn’t create the same sense of peace, comfort, and utter warmth that Garden Spells did. Where I couldn’t bear to set down Allen’s debut, her latest novel is one I finished quite happy to forget about, for quite some time.
When it comes down to it, a contemporary novel ticks for me when its characters come alive. And perhaps if I hadn’t read Allen’s debut, I would have found this novel to be remarkable. Yet, because I’ve already read Garden Spells, I know for a fact that Allen can write better than this; her characters can come alive and bury themselves in my heart. With The Peach Keeper, I found myself fascinated by Pax and Willa, the two protagonists of our tale who form a fast friendship, but I never truly felt them to the depth I wanted to. Pax and Willa attended high school together, but Pax’s wealth and friend circle set her apart from Willa, who was the school prankster. Thus, their road to friendship is unlikely, unsteady, uneven, but a wonderful tale nevertheless. Despite this, though, I cannot claim to have felt their bond as strongly as I did the bond between Claire and Sydney, the sisters of Garden Spells.
In addition to the friendship element, this novels romance fell disappointingly flat too. On one hand, I have to admit that I have never read romances like these. Pax is in love with Sebastian, a good friend of hers who she saw kissing a guy back in high school. As such, their relationship seems to be breaking apart; where before they were tight friends, now Pax’s affection is wrecking the perfect friendship they had. Willa, on the other hand, is slowly becoming involved with Pax’s twin brother, Colin. Colin was thought to be the high school prankster until the last day of school when Willa revealed who the Joker truly was. Ever since, Colin has been inspired to live his life on his terms, not those of his rich family, and, as such, he rarely stays for long in his small town. And yet, Colin is so interested in Willa because of what she hasn’t done – she hasn’t left town, she hasn’t chased dreams, and she doesn’t pull pranks anymore. I love that the center piece of this romance was the sudden realization that people grow up and as they do, their happiness and priorities in life change too, as Willa’s did. Still, while I enjoyed the different scenarios this book tackled when it came to romance, I cannot deny that I simply was not as invested in them.
In fact, I was not too invested in this book in general. Allen writes interesting characters and interesting romances and even an interesting plot consisting of a discovered dead body, but ultimately, the depth of emotion and feeling was minimal. Garden Spells packed a punch with its small town and its people trying to do the best they could and growing and learning from it. The Peach Keeper tries to do something similar, but somewhere along the lines, its story loses the magic that kept my eyes glued to the pages of Garden Spells. Allen’s writing is still as sharp and beautiful as it always is and, admittedly, I was quite interested by the mystery in this piece, so there is no denying that I will be back to read Allen’s upcoming novel and her last two books as well. The Peach Keeper, though, I would not go out of my way to recommend but to the most devoted of fans. If, like me, you can’t get enough of Allen’s writing and language, this will likely be a few hours well spent. Otherwise, if you’re new to Allen entirely, I cannot recommend Garden Spells enough. If anything, this book has made me realize that Allen’s debut is something I will re-read and treasure for many, many years to come. I can just feel it.