Fletcher Dukes and Altovise Benson reunite after decades apart—and a mountain of secrets—in this debut exploring the repercussions of a single choice and how an enduring talisman challenges and holds a family together.
On a routine trip to the Piggly Wiggly in Albany, Georgia, widower Fletcher Dukes smells a familiar perfume, then sees a tall woman the color of papershell pecans with a strawberry birthmark on the nape of her neck. He knows immediately that she is his lost love, Altovise Benson. Their bond, built on county fairs, sit-ins, and marches, once seemed a sure and forever thing. But their marriage plans were disrupted when the police turned a peaceful protest violent.
Before Altovise fled the South, Fletcher gave her a peach seed monkey with diamond eyes. As we learn via harrowing flashbacks, an enslaved ancestor on the coast of South Carolina carved the first peach seed, a talisman that, ever since, each father has gifted his son on his thirteenth birthday.
Giving one to Altovise initiated a break in tradition, irrevocably shaping the lives of generations of Dukeses. Recently, Fletcher has made do on his seven acres with his daughter Florida’s check-ins, his drop biscuits, and his faithful dog. But as he begins to reckon with long-ago choices, he finds he isn’t the only one burdened with unspoken truths.
An indelible portrait of a family, The Peach Seed explores how kin pass down legacies of sorrow, joy, and strength. And it is a parable of how a glimmer of hope as small as a seed can ripple across generations.
Anita Gail Jones is a visual artist and writer, born and raised in Albany, Georgia. Her fine arts degree is from Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. In the nineties, writing and illustrating children's stories led Anita to oral-tradition storytelling. She worked in San Francisco Bay Area schools as an artist in residence and tailored storytelling programs for libraries, corporations, and private clients.
Essence, "15 New Books We Can’t Wait To Read This Summer"
"An epic, enchanting debut." -- Lauren Puckett-Pope, Elle
"The sweeping story of a Black family in the South focuses on resilience and love...Jones is always insightful about family dynamics. And it’s a pleasure to see older people as main characters in a novel, depicted fully and without condescension. Engaging characters keep a complex multigenerational plot moving to embody decades of Black history." -- Kirkus
"Jones debuts with a layered saga of a Southern Black family that weaves stories of the slave trade and the 1960s civil rights movement....[she] manages to tie together the themes of ancestral heritage and the persistent power of love." -- Publishers Weekly
"Anita Gail Jones weaves together personal histories and the legacies that came before us in an expansive story about family and hidden histories. The world in this debut novel feels so lived in. Readers are drawn in by gorgeous passages about landscapes that dance with all five senses." -- Debutiful
"On the surface, The Peach Seed seems mostly about inheritance and tradition, but this engrossing novel is also about partnership in the Black community—historically and now: we are children of strong women and strong men. Inarguably, Black men take a beating in American society, but The Peach Seed reminds us that we often survive our scars. You will not want to put this engrossing story down, as Anita Gail Jones introduces a whole family of survivors, planted and deeply rooted in Albany, Georgia. The Peach Seed presents a family replete with intergenerational struggles, triumphs of compassion, and fine examples of Black male bravery, compassion, resilience, and persistence, as they love their women and children and as they demand as much manhood as they can muster for themselves. The Peach Seed is a surprising book, a refreshing story, and a novel that restores Black men to their place in the family, offering an alternative to the mythic, stereotypic matriarchy by acknowledging Black men where they stand." -- A.J. Verdelle, author of The Good Negress and Miss Chloe: A Memoir of a Literary Friendship with Toni Morrison
[H] Henry Holt & Company / August 01, 2023
1.5" H x 9.3" L x 6.2" W (1.4 lbs) 448 pages