To say the very least, The Priest and the Peaches is one of the most delightful Christian books on today's market. While it is aimed toward young adults, I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed Larry Peterson’s portrayal of the problems young adults and children face that have lost both parents.
Early on in this story, Teddy Peach leaves his dying father’s hospital bed without a hug or a final kiss. Pop’s hand is slightly raised and a tear rolls down his cheek, yet Teddy leaves straightaway for home. He is exhausted from the days work and has also been drinking beer with several of his male companions.
To his utter grief the following day, eighteen-year-old Teddy finds himself the earthly caregiver of Beeker, Joey, and Dancer, his three younger brothers. Ted and his younger sister, Joanie Peach, must now make every effort to keep their family unit together. Pops has died from pancreatitis due to prolonged heavy drinking.
Most of his life, Teddy’s deceased father had an artificial leg. Much to Teddy’s annoyance, the hospital neglects to send the prosthesis to the funeral home. His son feels the leg should be part of his father's body when he is buried. Teddy and his best friend retrieve the leg placing it on the back seat of Teddy’s 1951 heavily dented and admittedly ugly Desoto.
At a sudden stop, the leg flips up and Pops’ shoe smacks Teddy’s head. He tosses it back, only to make another equally sudden stop a few blocks later. This time, the leg flips up and over the back of the front seat. With shoe still intact, it lands directly beside his friend’s left foot on the passenger side floor. Both boys laugh at first, but then Teddy grows serious because he feels his father's overwhelming absence. He questions his own drinking routine.
As sad as The Priest and the Peaches could be, nevertheless, it is filled with similar humorous situations. Due to the large cadre of his alcohol loving relatives and friends, Pops’ wake is anything but sober. Strangely enough, the woman who lives in the apartment directly below the Peaches arrives wearing an enormous saucer-like steeply sloped hat. Mourners chuckle at the hat’s launch pad appearance.
Author Peterson portrays this woman as a spiteful creature who would stoop to any measure to separate the Peach children, claiming she seeks only their benefit. Neighbors know her for the shrew she is, but most hold their tongues. Someone in the rowdy wake crowd manages to pin a colored party hat to the peak of her the rounded headdress. While mourners attempt to pray the rosary along with their parish priest, first one person and then another, spots the ridiculous headpiece. Minor giggles start slowly but then quickly spread through the alcohol induced rowdy crowd until general turmoil erupts.
I would recommend this heartwarming tale to readers seeking a very serious subject, but one that is balanced with humor and good will. The Priest and the Peaches is a touching tale because it is so human. How will young Teddy and his sister Joanie manage to keep their family together at their young ages? Can Teddy even survive under the pressure of an adult breadwinner with his meager salary? Maybe the youngsters would be better cared for in an orphanage.
Readers will see the important role a beloved parish priest plays in steering these five children to make correct decisions, even when they are difficult. This is an uplifting story for young and old alike. It will not disappoint nor be easily forgotten. In so many ways it shows the stubborn courage of the human soul under the influence of a deep belief in God.