From the synopsis found on the back cover of Molly Harper’s Ain’t She a Peach, one may expect a mystery novel about Frankie McCready, gothic nerd and embalmer extraordinaire, and Eric Linden, an interim sheriff from Atlanta, solving “a series of mysterious break-ins” at the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. However, that is not the case. We have our culprit by page thirty-eight, the local teenage hooligan by the name of Jared Lewis, and Harper’s novel hardly focuses on the break-ins at all. In fact, it’s truly about Frankie’s maturation as an adult in the midst of family antics and rivalries with Jared and the local interim sheriff.
From chapter one, Frankie McCready is presented to us as a twenty-eight-year-old who lives with her parents and works at the family business. She has never been in a serious relationship and is insecure about her health since contracting cancer as a child. Harper’s writing slowly reveals that not only is Frankie afraid of starting anything long-lasting or independent away from her parents’ ever-watchful eyes, she’s been spoiled, too. Instead of considering the consequences of her actions, Frankie constantly relies on help from her family and is eventually the main cause of Linden’s near-dismissal as interim sheriff. She had begged him to patrol and protect the McCready funeral home instead of fulfilling his duty by patrolling the annual Trunk-and-Treat. In anger, he objects that he’d been “noticeably absent from one of the biggest community events of the year,” because he’d been “busy hanging out in a parkin’ lot, waiting to ambush a teenager.” In his “absence, a massive fight broke out and a bunch of people got injured and kids got the crap scared out of them.” “[N]ot all of us have the luxury of working for our family,” he observes angrily. “Some have to go out into the real world and get real jobs. We can’t dress like a circus freak and get away with murder because Mommy and Daddy still baby the hell out of us” (246).
In addition to the coming-to-adulthood angle, Molly Harper’s Ain’t She a Peach also touches on what it means to be an outsider or an insider in a small, Southern town. Frankie, who has lived in Lake Sackett all her life, is accepted by her family and other members of the community. Nevertheless, some community members avoid her as “Southern girls do not spend their time with dead bodies” (46). Eric Linden, even though he’s serving and protecting Lake Sackett residents, is an outsider from Atlanta and initially does not seem to be establishing roots within the community. Nonetheless, the town folk eventually come to accept him as their permanent sheriff. Margot, Frankie’s cousin from Chicago, is also an outsider as “her slick designer suits were still very much out of place in semi-rural Georgia” (2). Margot becomes more established in her family and in her community as she adopts cultural mores while participating in the planning of local events.
As indicated before, Harper’s story is not for mystery lovers as the break-ins at the morgue serve as mere backdrop to the small-town drama. Despite or even because of its lack of suspense, the novel is an easy, relaxing read. Women, in particular, are Harper’s intended audience as is suggested by the cutesy peach illustrations at every break and chapter heading. If readers want a quirky, feel-good, neatly-wrapped story of redemption and growth, they will find what they’re looking for in Harper’s Ain’t She a Peach.
Harper, Molly. Ain’t She a Peach. Gallery Books, 2018.