I received Daring to Eat a Peach, Joseph Zeppetello’s first novel, for review from Atticus Books.

About the Book:

Daring to Eat a Peach by Joseph Zeppetello (cover)When we first encounter Denton Pike, he is living in a condo for which he overpaid, avoiding commitment in the wake of a divorce, and working at a job he doesn’t love translating European literature for a publishing house. In his 30s, he is, more or less, stuck, inert, waiting for the next thing to bump him in a new direction.

Peter Blaine, Denton’s long-time friend, has just flown in from the West Coast after his girlfriend ended up in a Mexican prison on drug charges. Experienced in journalism but looking for a job change, he crashes at Denton’s place for a bit before finding an apartment of his own.

Rita is a single mother with a preteen daughter. Rita put herself through college while working and caring for her daughter and now translates Spanish texts for the same publishing house for which Denton works.

As the lives of Denton, Peter, Rita, and others drift together and pull apart, they bump each other–often unintentionally–onto different courses. Is it luck, fate, or something else that changes the paths of their lives? And is it for the better, or is it just the way things are?

My Thoughts:

Daring to Eat a Peach was a very interesting novel. I kept waiting for something big to happen, for the story to follow a traditional trajectory of beginning, middle, climax, end. And yet, it never really worked out that way. Instead, it’s almost as if Zeppetello had snipped a shared year or two from the middle of his characters’ lives and presented it in novel form.

In addition to Denton, Peter, and Rita, we meet a host of other characters: Rita’s friend Judy, Judy’s ex-husband and parents, her brother and his friends, Denton’s ex-wife and parents, the parents of ex-spouses, the heads of publishing houses and their secretaries. We hear enough about each of them that, by the time the novel is finished, we know each character’s story and can place him or her within a web of others, tracing how their stories converge, intertwine, collide, separate.

Out of this stew of characters, random moments, and chance happenings, Zeppetello crafts his novel. In a way, Daring to Eat a Peach reflects real life astonishingly well. It isn’t steeped in tragedy. It doesn’t take you on an exaggerated roller coaster ride or infuse each day with magic. There is the occasional fortuitous coincidence, but mostly it’s just your average dose of chance.

The things that happen in the novel seem random; yet subtly, Zeppetello explores how each unintentional but potentially life changing event came to pass. Jobs change. Relationships begin, stagnate, end, continue. Habits are broken and formed. It looks like nothing much is happening. Often, the characters don’t even recognize the potential life changing moments. Or they do, but they never imagined the outcome.

When I finished Daring to Eat a Peach, I didn’t really have many feelings toward it. It seemed to be a relatively straightforward contemporary tale of a group of young professionals in their mid-30s. Yet several days later, I’m still thinking about it. It’s the sort of book that echoes down through you, giving you plenty to think about while seeming to be quite ordinary. I think it’s because Daring to Eat a Peach is so very much like real life, with no definite bookends to a story peopled with such average lives, that its power is greater.

If you’re interested, the novel’s title comes from T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which goes along with the novel quite well. I can see why Zeppetello chose the title he did!

Your Turn!

Have you ever read a book that didn’t seem like much when you first read it, but that ended up staying with you long after you’d finished reading?

Join the Conversation


    1. I’m not sure it’d work for everyone, but I was surprised by how interesting I found it after I’d finished it!

  1. I have read a few that have grown on me over time, and I am always hesitant to recommend them, for fear that they might not grow on the person to whom I recommend it. I like the sound of this book. It seems very quiet and lackluster, but there seems to be a great cohesiveness in it. Great review!

    1. Yes, it’s definitely tough to recommend such a book! So, I won’t recommend this one to you as much as say that if you think it sounds good based on my review, then I think the odds are good that you will enjoy it at least somewhat. How’s that for vague? 🙂

  2. I’m currently on the last 40 pages of this book, and I have to say that I know what you mean. It’s the kind of book that’s best appreciated if you read it on your own volition, because you felt like reading it yourself. And I thought I was the only one with these thoughts! Glad I stumbled on your blog. 🙂

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Pauline! I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in my thoughts on the book. I’ll watch your blog for your review!

  3. It does sound different, and it’s good to hear you liked it because novels based on such ideas can so often be completely the opposite.

    Wuthering Heights I really didn’t like the story of, but since finishing it I’ve thought about it a lot. And a lot more than books I rated highly.

    1. Exactly. This one was well done, I thought. The idea is subtle enough that you don’t feel as though you’re being beaten over the head with it!

      Hmm, now I’m even more intrigued to read Wuthering Heights! I’ve run into a few of those books I didn’t love but that follow me around for days after I’ve finished them. Funny how that happens!

  4. As publisher of the book, I might be hard-pressed to be objective, but I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with your spot-on assessment, Erin. It’s a quiet book that resonates, not immediately after you close the cover but for days afterwards. Those lingering feelings, in fact, drove my decision to sign the author to a book contract.

    It’s funny: Others have had a remarkably similar response to it. One reader told me that it was such a nice change of pace from books that rely on plot, action and turmoil. She said she just enjoyed living with the characters and learning about their rather ordinary lives.

    I guess some might say it’s not appropriate for the publisher to weigh in here. That I have a capitalistic agenda … but really, I’m just responding as a reader and admirer of both Joe’s book and your blog. Thank you, Erin, for taking the time to read and review it!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I enjoy hearing publisher and author perspectives, as long as they are adding to the discussion and not just shameless plugs, so your comment is quite welcome. Publishers can be readers, too!

      It’s interesting to hear that you had a similar reaction to the book and that it was what led you to draw up a contract. “Living with the characters” is a great way to describe the book. I do hope Daring to Eat a Peach does well, as it’s a promising first novel.

  5. Very interesting and daring of the author to do this. So many people read to escape real life … not see it reflected back at them so perfectly. Yet I’m intrigued by your review!

    1. Hmm, that’s an excellent point. Ironic that its accurate reflection of real life was what made the novel stand out as different to me, no?

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