Pie by Sarah Weeks
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Cindy: I picked up Pie (Scholastic 2011) a few months ago to read as a palate cleanser between review books. It had a pie and a cat on the cover and looked like a lighthearted read. I live in Michigan and it was prime berry season when I started writing this post in early August. I didn’t know the book would make me cry! I also read it the week of the first anniversary of my mother’s death, which didn’t help matters. Alice has a special relationship with her Aunt Polly, a woman who bakes perfect pies loved by everyone in town. Alice helps her with the baking for her pie shop and has many long conversations with the woman who knows her lard and still has time to listen to her niece. Aunt Polly is the kind of woman who, if she had had children, would raise a girl who would later star in a Joan Bauer novel. But, when Aunt Polly dies unexpectedly, she leaves no heirs…except for her cat, Lardo. He apparently is the one named in the will to receive Aunt Polly’s secret pie recipe! The crazy story is interspersed with recipes from the various pies loved by the townsfolk, from the ordinary apple to the esoteric Concord Grape Pie that I am desperate to try. I had even planned to bake a lattice-topped peach pie to photograph for this blog post, but darn it, pie is not on my South Beach Diet, and peach season has come and gone. What hasn’t left me is the lingering delightful elements of this story…like:
The Blueberry Award…established in 1922 to celebrate the most distinguished contribution to American pie making.
Ha! With its descriptions of Blueberry buzz and “Mock Blueberry” clubs, librarians are sure to be laughing the loudest at those antics. And the sleuthing that Alice and Charlie do to get to the truth in the will. And, whose heart doesn’t break when Alice says to her mother:
“You’re wrong….I didn’t love Aunt Polly more than I love you. The difference is she loved me back.”
This book isn’t quite what I expected. The crust was flaky and soft and delightful, but the filling was very satisfying and surprising…much like I expect that Concord Grape pie to be once I get around to making it.
Lynn: Cindy is SO right. Sarah Weeks has a deft hand with this sweet story that is as delightful as a warm pie from the oven. Bubbling with just the right amount of humor and sweetness, this story has a satisfying strength that adds an unexpected richness. Weeks has lots of fun with the language, mixing in plenty of tasty phrases like “Alice was the apple of Polly’s eye” and “dawn spread its buttery light across the sky.” The humor adds a tangy flavor that lingers. I’m still laughing at the Blueberry Medal and the APA awarding committee that calls the winners at 6 am on a Monday morning! And how about this tart exchange:
“Why on earth would I charge people money for something that brings me so much pleasure?” Polly asked Reverend Flowers.
“How else do you expect to stay in business, my dear?” he responded.
“You of all people should know the answer to that,” Polly laughed.
The mystery is clever and entertaining and underneath the flaky confection is a thoughtful exploration of grief, family and coming of age. I also love the Epilogue set 40 years later, finishing with one more intriguing ingredient. Our kids are loving this book as much as we do, drawn by that terrific cover. And then there are those recipes! Ah, pecan or key lime? Where to start?