The Peach Seed by Anita Gail Jones

c.2023, Henry Holt and Company     
448 pages

By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Truth Contributor

Your entire life has been filled with milestones to meet, and many firsts.

Your first tooth and first steps were celebrated. Your first word and first day of school were recorded; graduations, proms, puppy love, and beyond, you’ve enjoyed years of achievement. It’s true that milestones are fewer as you age; still, as in the new book, The Peach Seed by Anita Gail Jones, life sometimes throws you a pleasant surprise.

There was no mistaking that perfume.

He hadn’t smelled it in decades but Fletcher Dukes, on his weekly visit to Piggly Wiggly with his sister, Olga, knew that scent immediately. He didn’t say anything; he figured Olga smelled it, too, and if the as-yet-unseen woman wearing the fragrance was who he thought she was, it’d take Olga a minute to find the girl Fletcher loved once and who broke his heart.

In the years since, Fletcher had moved on but he never forgot the woman or her perfume. So what was she doing back in Albany after all this time, after Fletcher married another woman, had three daughters, helped raise a grandson? Could he still think about her when he had his hands full trying get his 20-something grandson, Bo D, to step up like a man?

Fletcher tried not to worry, there was no use in it. But it pricked his mind: the woman he loved as a young man – all during Civil Rights protests, arrests and marches and beatings – was back in town for reasons he didn’t know.

It was probably complicated, just like his relationship with his grandson was.

Fletcher had recently found a peach-pit carved monkey necklace in a fruit bowl where Bo D must’ve thrown it, rejecting Fletcher’s long-ago gift and a precious right of passage that every Dukes male had enjoyed for more than a century. Rejecting it. That hurt.

Knowing, but not really knowing where the first monkey Fletcher had ever carved was kept… now, that hurt, too.

Who says you can’t learn history from a novel?  You can, as you’ll see when you’re inside The Peach Seed, where author Anita Gail Jones leans heavily on real events in World History to tell a story that spans from 1796 to 2013, across two continents and several states.

Yes, that’s a chasm to cover and it may be too wide.

Jones does something difficult here: the dialogue in this tale is easy, like a casual conversation but the story seems over-padded. There’s a lot of randomness here, pages of bickering siblings, aimless musing, characters that feel like they belong in another kind of book.

Still, these flaws are mostly overcome by good main characters that are sometimes caricatures, but aren’t totally disagreeable. A few, in fact, are downright pleasant, like an elderly neighbor you’ve grown fond of.

Had this book been 50 pages shorter, it would’ve been a big winner; as it is, it’s not bad, just too long. The Peach Seed is worth a try. For the right reader, it might still meet your expectations.