World of Pies Karen Stolz Hyperion
As coming-of-age, nostalgic, small-town southern chick books go, World of Pies is certainly not the worst. It's a novel, told in a series of chronological short stories, augmented by recipes that come up in the narrative (a device that's not especially new - see also, chick doyenne, Nora Ephron's Heartburn - or fresh, here).
The heroine, Roxanne, is 12 when the book starts and a married mom when it ends. Not really giving anything away there. The book tells you she's coming of age, and that's what these books do.
The jacket promises, "Roxanne is 12 years old and wild for baseball in 1962, the year of a pie-baking contest that will change her life forever. Life in the small town of Annette, Texas, has been idyllic, cozy; until this summer." Notwithstanding the misuse of the semicolon there, the book doesn't exactly deliver on such a pregnant promise.
Structuring the "novel" as stories is no more than a cheap device that allows the author to get away with avoiding transitions. The "devastating death" the jacket promises doesn't even happen in the narrative. A vital character just turns up dead and buried in the next story, past tense. If this were a play, everything interesting would occur offstage.
The book takes Roxanne through growing up in the 60s, her first sexual encounters (again, all past tense), college (past tense), a hippie wedding, a pregnancy, and a return to Annette.
It's not a bad book, it's just Lee Smith Lite. Readers looking for this kind of story should just pick up Smith's Live, Bottomless instead. Why settle for the imitation? -RR