Book Review: “World of Pies” by Karen Stolz

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“The main facts in human life are five:  birth, food, sleep, love and death.”

–E.M. Forster

This E.M. Forster quote is fitting to accompany my review of the novel World of Pies by Karen Stolz, for each of these elements…. birth, food, sleep, love and death,  plays a role in the life of the main character, Roxanne Milner.

This novel is a quick read that takes the reader on a journey to Annette, Texas, and spans the turmoil of racial tensions in the 1960′s to the scars of those returning from the Vietnam war.  Although larger social issues are present, the real story is the very normal journey from childhood to adolescence, and eventually adulthood, experienced by Roxanne.  Each chapter paints a picture of an important period of time in the life of the extremely likeable main character.  The reader is granted a glimpse into the small moments that formed Roxanne into a caring, sentimental, and supportive wife and mother.

From her first experience with racism at the  town’s first pie-baking contest, Roxanne learned from her mother the importance of holding true to one’s convictions.  When she gets to meet her mother’s first high-school boyfriend, she sees her mother as a person with a story that is more complex than she ever imagined.  When her beloved cousin returns from Vietnam injured and addicted, she learns the importance of family and how time can heal wounds.

These experience, and many more, are framed by the Milner family’s love of food, and each chapter is concluded with a down-home recipe–one of which is sure to inspire the reader to roll up her sleeves!  Doreen’s Frozen Fruit Salad is sure to evoke nostalgia and making it will surely connect you to the daily ritual enjoyed by Roxanne and her father at the local lunch-counter…swivel-stools and all!  I’m sure if you indulge in Christina’s Lemon Meringue Pie, each bite will thrill you with tangy sweetness and remind you of her courage and conviction in a time when the color of one’s skin seemed to prompt exclusion.  We’re all familiar with the power of food to heal, and Aunt Ruthie’s Lemon Pound Cake did just that when Roxanne’s mother had surgery, and she was faced with the reality of her mother’s mortality.

If you’re in the mood for a coming-of-age story that will make you laugh and cry…this is it!  The recipes are a bonus!  Happy reading!

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