SARAH ADDISON ALLEN

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The Peach Keeper (2011)

When Paxton Osgood sends out invitations to commemorate the forming of the Walls of Water women's society at the newly renovated Blue Ridge Madam, the atmosphere in the foggy southern town changes. Willa Jackson keeps being drawn to the Madam that was built by her ancestors before they lost their fortune. Both Paxton and Willa struggle to be the person they think they should be, rather than who they really are. As the renovation work at the Madam gets closer to completion, buried secrets are unearthed that change both Paxton and Willa's lives and bind them together. But will they work out who they really are in order to find their true happiness? Written with a hint of magic and Southern superstition, this is a really good mix of romance, friendship and mystery. As Paxton and Willa uncover their family secrets they give you glimpses into Southern society in the 1930s. A well written, pleasant read that you'll struggle to put down when you start. (AB)


The Girl Who Chased the Moon (2010)

Upon her mother's death in a car accident, Emily Benedict returns to her mother's hometown of Mullaby, North Carolina, to meet her grandfather Vance Shelby, a reclusive giant. But Emily is immediately met with hostility and suspicion as her mother Dulcie left under a cloud after an ill-fated love affair with Logan Coffey. The do-gooding mother that Emily remembers is in stark contrast to the spiteful, spoilt teenager who caused so much hurt and misery. Emily finds that she has to overcome her mother's legacy and retrace her steps to gain the acceptance she needs and expose the secrets of the past to finally move forward in to the future. But all is not what it seems in Mullaby; against the guarded secrets, there is also magic afoot in the shape of ghostly lights, lost jewellery which is returned, and magical wallpaper which reflects the occupant's mood. Mullaby is a town with many skeletons; not just Dulcie Shelby's. Emily meets Julia; a troubled woman, who bakes magical cakes with the window open and Win Coffey, who feels a connection to Emily but whose wealthy family immediately take a dislike to Emily, because of the past actions of her mother. This was a stunning book. There were so many layers within it; the author uses magical elements to deal with very real subjects and shape the lives of the characters. Like the individuals within the story, the novel is quirky but delightful. It is a book about the past and how often the ghosts of those who have gone linger in the present, still colouring the opinions of those who remember them. It is a book of death and life both in terms of plot and metaphorically; dark and light, love and forgiveness. A highly imaginative, unusual and enchanting tale. (LP)


The Sugar Queen (2009)

Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is trapped in the past and, overshadowed by her domineering mother Margaret, leads a secluded, isolated life in her mother's house. Josey is bullied by her mother; constantly reminded of what a bad child she was. But Josey has a coping mechanism; in a secret compartment in her closet, she hides sweets and romance novels, which she escapes into to deal with her banal existence. Josey has an unrequited love for postman Adam, who is unaware of her affections as she loves him from afar. Josey has settled into this humdrum life and acquiesced to the demands of her overbearing mother without question. Yet, all this is changed when she discovers Della Lee Baker, a sassy hard nut waitress hiding in her closet. Emotionally blackmailed by Della, Josey reluctantly allows Della to stay. Yet her arrival in Josey's life acts as a catalyst and sets off a chain reaction. Indeed, Della's presence and tough love causes Josey to see what her life has become; cloistered, cut off from reality and effectively removed from everyday society. Della acts as a guardian angel to Josey, enabling her to face the truth of her stagnant life and to reclaim it as her own. Through her she encounters Chloe, who has been left devastated from the betrayal of her boyfriend Jake. Della's emergence causes the two women to befriend each other and their fates to become irrevocably intertwined. This is like a magical fairy tale for adults but structured with a realistic plot tempered with characters who, although flawed, are able to confront their issues and move forward with their lives. At the crux of the novel is a tale of the complexity and precariousness of relationships and how often it is easy to become defined by another person, so much so that we lose our authentic self. The author deals with themes of love, infidelity, forgiveness and the importance of living our lives for ourselves. The characters are so endearing that the reader really becomes embroiled in the story. Yet against this realism, the writer offsets this with magical elements which make for an unusual but compelling read. Simply breathtaking. (LP)


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