Southern flavor fills ‘Book of Peach’

Her given name is Priscilla Bell Posner Rondell, one of the Tennessee Bell’s, a Southern family of some renown and good standing.

Her momma did her best to bring her up to be a gentile Southern lady, but much to her mother’s chagrin, Priscilla “Peach” Rondell would just as soon be known as a down to earth Southern gal.

Former beauty queen Peach Rondell finds she has plenty of opportunity to renew and rediscover her sassy sense of independence and flair for originality when she flees her broken marriage to return home to Chulahatchie, Miss. Encouraged by her psychiatrist to examine who she truly is, Peach takes to reviewing her past, scribbling away in a journal, filling it full of memories and insights. But nothing in years of therapy and counseling has prepared Peach for the task of dealing with her momma on her home territory.

Donna Bell Barclay Rondell is a force to reckon with, and as a Southern mother, she is determined to see that her children are a good reflection upon her. Peach’s older brother and sister have escaped their mother’s scrutiny and ire by moving thousands of miles away, but as the youngest, Peach is still the target for her mother’s expectations and disappointments — even at the age of 46.

To escape her mother’s critical temperament, Peach takes to spending her days at the Heartbreak Cafe, where she finds friendship and even love are as easy to acquire as a good cup of coffee, and where she is accepted for who she is, not for her name. When tragedy strikes, Peach soon finds those friendships will become even more precious. As she faces an uncertain future, she feels safe in the knowledge that she won’t be alone — her friends always will be by her side.

Penelope J. Stokes presents a gentle but firm look at the psyche of a Southern woman in “The Book of Peach.” Having Peach narrate her own story gives this book a unique voice as the reader listens in on Peach’s philosophies along her journey of self-discovery.

Although a loose sequel to Stokes’ “Heartbreak Cafe,” this book stands alone just fine on its own merits.

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