Sarah Addison Allen's The Peach Keeper begins as Paxton Osgood mails out invitations from a social club comprised of Walls of Water's richest women. However, a rainstorm develops, breaking a record set in 1936, and the richly made invitations are delayed and misdelivered. The theme of "magic" is introduced: when the letters finally find their rightful recipients, they disappear and reappear again—in strange places like bird nests. Every unusual thing that occurs because of those invitations (including an epidemic of infected paper cuts) superstitiously points to coming change.
Willa Jackson gets her invitation and lets it sit: she is not interested in the gala being presented by the Women's Society Club. However, unbeknownst to her, strange incidents in town and a seventy-five year-old mystery will conspire against her wish to remain on the periphery of this and related events.
Rachel Edney, who works the coffee bar at Willa's organic sportswear store, tries to understand Willa's adamant refusal to become involved. Aware of peculiar activities talking place (such as the shop's bell ringing when no one has opened the door), Rachel defies these mysterious occurrences, saying "Superstitions are man's way of trying to control things he has no control over."
If nothing else is true, no one will be able to control the things beginning to take place. The story's mood develops around these quirky events—which take place randomly not only with Willa but with others in town.
Willa grew up in Walls of Water but feels completely out of place with her peers. She has no desire to associate with them but keeps to herself. She maintains a healthy distance from Paxton Osgood and the other wealthy "townies."
The upcoming gala, and the mystery at the heart of the novel, center on the Blue Ridge Madam—a beautiful mansion (said to be haunted) that once belonged to Willa's family. Built late in the 1800s by Willa's great-great grandfather, the family lost it when the logging business (on which the family's fortune had been built) died out. The Madam long ago began to fall to ruin, until the Osgood family bought the old house and began to refurbish it.
Soon to be opened to the public as a bed-and-breakfast, the Women's Society Club, founded in 1936, has decided to hold a gala to celebrate the estate's "renaissance" and the club's good deeds, and the invitations announce the lavish...
(The entire section is 3606 words.)
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