Daring to Eat a Peach by Joseph Zeppetello
Fatally flawed people are plentiful. But some people have flaws that make them unique and interesting in that they rise above the common mass of screw-ups, and fail in elegantly profound ways.
So begins Joseph Zeppetello’s novel, Daring to Eat a Peach, chronicling the lives of four seemingly ordinary people brought together by life’s choices and accidents, kept together by the intricacies of love and loss, and separated by the lack of anything permanent in the world. It’s a story that doesn’t beg to read, but rather patiently waits for you to take notice.
Meet Denton Pike – stuck at a dead-end job translating European literature with a bully for an associate editor, paying way too much for a condo in a town where nothing much happens, nursing a slight fear of commitment after his divorce. Nothing exciting or fascinating about him, really, and it stays that way for the entire duration of the book. His friend Peter, on the other hand, is quite the opposite – a former investigative reporter for a major newspaper in LA (he was nominated for a Pulitzer), scandal forces Peter to go home to the East Coast after his screenwriter girlfriend gets jailed in Mexico for drug charges. The best of friends, Peter stays in with Denton while he looks for another job, during which they meet, reminisce, and catch up with other significant characters in the story: Denton’s fellow translator, Rita, and her preteen daughter Lina; Judy, a recently divorced personal assistant to the academic vice president at the college; and Ben, Judy’s brother who keeps his work in South Africa vague from his sister.
Bumping into each other, falling out, forging stronger relationships or fading from each other’s lives – the situations they are thrown into raise the question of what has brought them to this point in their lives: were they fated to walk this path, did they just got lucky, or did they do this to themselves, by the choices they’ve made in life?
When I finished reading Daring to Eat a Peach, it felt like I just concluded a long, detailed and intimate conversation with a friend; in retrospect, reading it felt like catching up with some friends who you are both intensely familiar yet strangely unacquainted with. Zeppetello’s storytelling is subtle and quiet, I fear that most people would find the lack of major drama and crisis boring. But this book is far removed from boring; in fact, this is as honest as a book can get. Zeppetello’s characters aren’t exaggerated; they are with the usual flaws everyone else has, and they share the same problems with the rest of the world. It’s not a book that makes you squirm in your seat or want to cheer for anybody, but ultimately, in the end, it leaves a lasting impression that you just can’t shake off.
I write about my thoughts on what I’ve read in order to share them with whoever’s interested, and yet I have the strongest urge to protect Daring to Eat a Peach from those who fail to appreciate it; it’s like a great discovery I am dying to share with everybody, but at the same time I want to be selfish and keep it to myself. The moment I read the first paragraph, I knew I would hold on to this for as long as I possibly can; though the book ends, the lives of Denton, Peter, Rita and Judy continue with me, as I wonder where they are and what they’re doing now, much like they way we think of a friend not seen or heard from for the longest time.