The world is ripe for destruction in 1953. The Korean War drags on and the Rosenbergs are executed as spies. Senator Joseph McCarthy convinces the country communists are infiltrating the government, and the threat of nuclear war festered in the collective consciousness of the nation.
While the nation worries about communist bombs, sixteen-year-old Bernadette Vaughn holds court in the family bomb shelter, finagling a way to read Kinsey’s groundbreaking work on human sexuality. She obsesses about boys and big city life. Her best friend, Faith McNulty is a devout Catholic who dreams of staying in their small town, marrying Allen Hanlon, and raising a family. Their awkward and unattractive friend, Octavia Mansfield doesn’t have room in her life for boys, dreams, or God. She spends most of her young life caring for her severely disabled brother.
Their conversations about what each of them would do if the end of the world were imminent become the catalyst for a prank that spins wildly beyond control and draws in an entire town.
Left behind in the wake of that summer’s events are their unrealized dreams and open wounds. In 1973, a reunion trip to the small town of their youth returns them to the summer of 1953 and the passion and betrayal that changed their lives.
I dislike peaches. Cling, whole, half, frozen, or in pies. It doesn’t matter what kind or any way they’re served, they’re still peaches. Savannah Vaughn served peaches twelve months of the year. She was vain about her peaches. Truth be told, she was vain about everything. Her appearance. Her money. Her home. Even her Cadillac. I imagine she figured anything that touched her life others desired for their own. That extended right down to her peaches.
In the winter when a primer coat of snow dusted Port Pompeii, every living soul contemplated how many inches we’d be digging out of in a few hours; all the while hoping the electricity would hold up to the storm. Except Savannah Vaughn. She thought about peaches. Before the snowfall buried the cellar door, she would send Bernadette and Peter out to their bomb shelter to fetch jars she had canned in the spring. Then she would go about making peach pie in the middle of a snowstorm. I knew not to be caught at the Vaughn’s house when the snow was getting deep enough to provoke a “might as well stay here until the weather passes” comment.