Atticus Books was gracious enough to send me a copy of Joseph Zeppetello's first novel, Daring to Eat a Peach. Thank you Atticus Books!
Denton Pike is the main character, a divorced man who works in a dead-end job as a translator for a publishing firm. His life is fairly stagnant, until his buddy, Peter, shows up. We find out how Denton's life is propelled forward after Peter's arrival. In addition to his co-workers, Rita and Deirdre, Denton's circle expands to include Judy, his new love interest. Peter hangs on the periphery, getting settled into his new locale and into new relationships.
I was impressed by how Zeppetello developed these characters and made them come alive with fairly spare writing. I felt as though I knew them, liked them (well, liked most of them!), and wanted to find out what happened to them.
They were, especially Denton, multi-layered characters. The books starts out with a description that makes Denton sound rather fussy...
"He had also touched up the gray in his beard and trimmed his nails after a shower. The latter was likely what had taken so long, his meticulous way of trimming each nail to within tolerances that only a machinist could appreciate."
And yet as it went on, Denton's fussiness seemed less a personality trait and more a result of the stagnation in his life circumstances.
There were quite a few passages I really liked that captured the characters well...
"Excellent luck today", Peter said. "Usually this garage is full by now."
"It's a good omen."
"You believe in omens? Last night you were a man of science."
"Science is fine, but superstition can get you through the day," said Denton.
"Deirdre, though, was in a mood, and like many moody people, wanted to make sure everyone else was in a mood too. There are some people in the world who simply aren't busy enough for their own good."
"It irked him (Denton) now to realize how controlling the two of them (his ex-wife and ex-mother-in-law) had been, while simultaneously in a constant battle with each other. He had been the lone chess piece on the board as the two queens fought. It wasn't entirely their fault, he could have said no. Eventually he did. While denial is strong, self-preservation, in his case, had been stronger."
An aside: This passage evoked a time for me when I, too, chose self-preservation over denial, which is perhaps why I liked it.
While I liked the characters, I had a few problems with the book. I didn't love the cover or the title (even with the title's literary reference). I probably would not have picked up the book had it not been sent to me. Neither felt inviting to me as a reader.
I didn't love the whole military thing and what happened to Peter, that seemed kind of out of place. Actually, Peter was the character I felt least connected to, so maybe that was part of it.
Overall, I was engaged with the characters, liked how Zeppetello wove their stories together, and I enjoyed reading the book. Thanks again to Atticus Books!
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