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.


  1. When it comes down to it, a contemporary novel ticks for me when its characters come alive.

    I completely agree with this, Keertana. I'm generally not as invested in contemporary as I am in science fiction and fantasy, but great characters can make the world of difference. It's a shame that this book was missing a spark for you, especially as you loved Garden Spells so much. But thanks for the helpful review!

  2. Yeah, I've not read this one, but was kinda disappointed in the other Addison Allen book I read: Chasing the Moon (or something like that.) I still think Garden Spells is wonderful, and will probably read more by this author at some point, because I'm hoping she's not a one trick pony. Great review, K:)

  3. This really happens more often than I'd love. You read one book by the author and it's so magical that you fall in love with it and then the next one and magic is gone. It's such a shame. I'm glad you still find this book interesting. Amazing review, Keertana :)

  4. This author is one of those that I really want/need to start reading her books, but I just haven't yet. I am really invested in supporting the authors from my home state, NC, and she's one of my own. I love her covers and her stories seem fun, but I just haven't taken the time to pick them up. From her books, for some reason The Sugar Queen (?) looks like it would be fun. Maybe you could suggest a good place to start with her?

  5. This was my only Allen I read and though the story was enjoyable it did not spark my interest for her other work. Reading your review I am however now curious about Garden Spells. Maybe need to check that one anyway.

  6. What a pretty cover this has Keertana! Too bad it wasn't as strong as the first book, but it seems like it was still a pretty solid read, just not quite up to the level you know this author is capable of. I'll definitely have to go back and check Garden Spells out, love those books that make you want to read them over and over again no matter how many times you have before.

  7. I've seen this book around a lot, along with recommendations from other readers.. but I can't say it's ever really jumped out at me all that much. Your review confirms that it's probably not for me anyway :) But perhaps I should check out Garden Spells...

  8. @Asheley: GARDEN SPELLS is a great place to start, in my opinion. I haven't read SUGAR QUEEN - though I plan to - but I know and love GARDEN SPELLS, so I have a feeling you will too! :)

    @Rey: YES! You should! :D

  9. Okay, I will read GARDEN SPELLS first and skip this one. It's always disappointed when you find a book that you love, but the rest of the author's stories just don't live up to the wonder of the first. I hope you're able to find the magic again in her writing.

  10. I adore contemporary reads, especially if they get you invested body and soul into its characters, but for some reason I am just not finding this one all that interesting. I don't like the sound of the characters or the romance. Too bad most aspect in this didn't work out for you Keertana. But I will be checking out Garden Spells. You can't seem to recommend it enough. Thanks for the honest review! :D

    ~ Maida
    Literary Love Affair 

  11. Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors, hands down! And I loved this book. It's a toss up between this one and "The Girl Who Chased The Moon" as my most-read of hers. :)

    Marlene Detierro (Eureka Joe's)


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