Summary: Twenty-three years ago, beauty queen Peach Rondell left Mississippi and vowed never to return. Now she's back, divorced and heartbroken, trying to figure out how her life went so terribly wrong. To escape her mama's scrutinizing gaze, she spends her days in a little storefront diner called the Heartbreak Cafe, where, in the back booth, she scribbles away in her journal, waiting for enlightenment. Instead, Peach gets something even better: the unexpected friendship of an unlikely group of folks who show Peach that finding out where you're going usually means embracing where you're from. -- Berkley
One of the genres that I'm most attracted to is Southern Fiction (I'm not sure that's technically a genre, but you know what I mean.) Maybe it's because I grew up in Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, but for some reason, I love to read books that take place in the South. So when I realized that THE BOOK OF PEACH by Penelope J. Stokes was about a troubled woman who returns to her family home in Mississippi hoping to find herself, I thought I'd give it a try. I mean, I do love a good coming-of-age story even when the characters are already grown!
When I read the description for THE BOOK OF PEACH, I got pretty darn excited. One of the blurbs compared Ms. Stokes to Fannie Flagg, one of the my favorite authors from many years ago. Maybe my expectations were set really high, but I wasn't "wowed" with this book. I don't have anything negative to say about it and I really didn't find any major faults. I think maybe my reading tastes have changed over the past few years.
THE BOOK OF PEACH tells the story of Peach Rondell, a former beauty queen who couldn't wait to leave Mississippi... and her mom. When she finds herself near 40 and divorced, her psychiatrist suggests that she return home to resolve some of her "issues." She begins writing in a journal to get to know herself better and hopefully heal. But in the meantime, she meets a wonderful group of friends that teach her about what's really important in life.
Peach's story is relatively predictable, but that didn't bother me in this book. (I think I've come to expect predictability in books like this one.) And, I couldn't help but appreciate all of the feel-good messages about the value of family and friendships. I even enjoyed some of the banter between Peach and her mom, and I did find myself grinning at some of the scenes in this novel and Peach's thoughts about her mother. But for some reason, this book didn't resonate with me like I had hoped.
This is the first novel that I've read by Ms. Stokes, and I think she definitely did a good job of capturing the essence of the South and its inhabitants. She did create some unique and lovable characters, and I found the novel very easy to read. Ms. Stokes is an acclaimed author for her past books including HEARTBREAK CAFE, THE WISHING JAR, and CIRCLE OF GRACE. She has a faithful following and Publishers Weekly and Booklist have both praised her work.
THE BOOK OF PEACH might make a good book club pick for certain groups -- I think older women might appreciate this book a little more than I did. I couldn't find a readers guide, but I don't really think one is necessary to discuss this book. Some of the topics your group might want to explore include marriage, divorce, healing, mother/daughter relationships, and friendship.
I can't exactly say why THE BOOK OF PEACH fell flat for me -- maybe I'm just not the target audience. Having said that, I do think there are a bunch of readers out there who would really enjoy this sweet book.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.