Spending time with your family should be a happy time. Sitting around the family table, sharing a meal and sharing stories. But what if you have cancer? Your father is dying of cancer. Your younger brother is an alcoholic. Your other brother has a wife who won't let him get a word in. Your sister is little on the flaky side. Your 10-year-old niece has some pretty wild ideas about sex. Your grandmother is getting old, but is the one who makes the most sense in the family. And your mother is a dramatic, former beauty queen drowning in cheap makeup and hairspray. With all of that you would just come running to the dinner table wouldn't you?
In Birthday Pie by Arthur Wooten Lex Martindale, a NYC-based writer, is returning home for his birthday. He has a secret to tell his family back home in Ragland, North Carolina. His partner Peter is pushing Lex to tell the truth. But when is there ever the right moment to tell your family you have cancer? His mother Trudy Lee should be able to handle the truth right? Not really. Something that might seem minor to the average person is a gigantic problem to Trudy Lee. There is always a way to discover fault within herself, so giving her a compliment is a waste of time.
Focusing on Lex's return and baking his favorite pie (pecan) is a welcome distraction to her husband Bert's declining health. Although I would have to pass on her pie. If your pie mixture falls on the floor, wouldn't you just make more? Not Trudy Lee. Scoop it up and back in the pie shell it goes. I had to laugh at that.
When Lex and all of his siblings converge on the family home, it's like the perfect storm. His brother Junior counts slowly to himself, hoping his wife Clairese will shut up. Clairese has to always be talking, she always has to be right and uses religion to justify everything. Clairese's mixed up views of religion results in a lot of confusion for her daughter Mattie, who thinks a girl gets pregnant by holding an egg and getting germs from a boy. Ahhh, to be young and naive!!
Brother Roscoe is the family screw up, drowning in liquor and dreams of becoming rich. Sister Mona Lee is the "midge," basically everyone thinks she's a little on the annoying side. After immersing herself in holistic healing, Mona Lee believe she has what it takes to cure her father of cancer. Later in the book you get to see life from her side. At one point Mona Lee was a likable person. But like a lot of people all it took was a broken heart to change her forever.
A family dinner for the Martindales is anything but pleasant. Everyone talks over each other. No one wants to listen. Poor Lex even throws up, which I think he would have done even if he wasn't sick. Just reading their exchanges gave me a headache. More so because I can relate to this family. Over the years, not every family function in my life has gone as planned. By the end, I'm left wondering what else happened to the Martindales because this is just a small slice of their life. I haven't touched on everything in this wonderful story. There is a lot there packed into a scant 179 pages. It's quirky, funny, heartwarming and timeless.
Note: I received a copy of the book from author Arthur Wooten in exchange for an honest review.
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