The Peach Seed: A Novel
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.
Praise for The Peach Seed: A Novel
Named a Georgia Center for the Book “Books All Georgians Should Read”
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“The Peach Seed is propulsive, yet thoughtful; sweeping but intricate; a tribute to the African American experience that captures its vastness and depth. Jones is an indispensable addition to the canon of Southern literature.”
—Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, author of On The Rooftop
“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
“Anita Gail Jones’s prodigious talents are on remarkable display in The Peach Seed. Her rendering of a fictional world, whether the exterior landscapes of Georgia and West Africa or the rich portraits of the interiors of southern homes, is truly impressive. Her dialogue resonates with clarity, compassion, and authenticity, rarely seen on the pages of fiction. She braids stories of the struggles and perseverance of African-Americans in distant centuries with those of more recent eras with remarkable dexterity, and her characters are thoroughly engrossing. This immensely well-crafted debut novel, gut-wrenching at times, hopeful at others, is a beautiful achievement.”
—Jeffrey Colvin, award-winning author of Africaville
“Shockingly beautiful. . . . Rooted in specific American places and historical tragedies, The Peach Seed dares to center the pitch-perfect voice of its narrator, a voice that is lyrical, pastoral, and dazzling with the hot light of new insights into problems as old as a nation built on slavery and freedom. The novel is the fictional equivalent of genius Black Country music—it tells the gut-bucket truth with eclipsing beauty.”
—Alice Randall, award-winning author of The Wind Done Gone and Black Bottom Saints
“A rich and layered tale about legacy, longing, and love, and about the importance of connection—to history, to family, to place, to community. In laying out the complex lives of her characters, Jones shows the many ways that the past resurfaces in the present as unfinished business. And on a deep, visceral level, Jones makes clear that our circle of connection to the lost African homeland remains unbroken.”
—Jeffery Renard Allen, author of Fat Time and Song of the Shank