Sunday, August 4, 2019

Probably Not the Best Idea to Read A Book About Pie When I'm Trying to Eat Healthier... Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber

I'm not a huge fan of pies; I'd rather have a piece of cake. But, gosh darn it the pies in this novel sound completely delicious, along with all the other food (hello fried chicken and biscuits) that glides through the lives of the folks in Wicklow, Alabama. I am a lover of biscuits. Lord I love biscuits. But they are on the "think twice before I stuff my mouth" list as I attempt one more time to be more mindful of what I eat and why I eat it. Trying hard to eat more protein and less not-so-great-for-me carbs. Basically, lots of lean protein (greek yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, chicken breasts, lean beef) and lots of veggies. I've even said goodbye to my summer gin and tonic and am either not having a cocktail at all, or one that comes in at 100 calories instead of 200. And having one instead of two. I'm starting my third week, and I sorely miss pasta. Thankful my Bud is along for the ride, and willing to eat what I make, and willing to find alternatives to our higher calorie weekend cocktails. 

So yes I read a book that features food very prominently, and a lot of the action takes place in a cafe. It was a great summer read, however-just the kind of tale I like to read as a mental break when life gets a bit too busy or I'm avoiding household chores. 

Anna Kate Callow returns to the small town of Wicklow, Alabama to settle her Grandmother Zee's estate. That estate includes the Blackbird Cafe, a Wicklow favorite, and one that has an interesting legacy: a slice of Zee's pie will give you messages from deceased loved ones the night after you've eaten it. What folks don't know is that Anna Kate, her mother, her grandmother, and generations past all are gatekeepers for the blackbirds that sit in the mulberry trees behind the cafe. At night-midnight, in fact-the blackbirds sing sweetly. What they're singing are the messages from loved ones on the other side. And now it's up to Anna Kate to continue that legacy. Only problem is Anna Kate plans to return North, to continue her quest to become a doctor. She has to run the cafe for 90 days, per Zee's will, before she can put it up for sale. 

There's a whole lot more to the story, of course. Anna Kate's mother, Eden, left Wicklow before Anna Kate was born, under a cloud of grief and suspicion. Anna Kate's return to Wicklow is a surprise to many of the townsfolk, especially the Linden family. As it turns out, no one realized Eden had a daughter, and boy oh boy Anna Kate looks a lot like AJ Linden, who was tragically killed in a car accident with Eden at the wheel, all those years ago. AJ's mother, the overbearing Seelie Linden, despised Eden, and her grief at losing her son has kept Seelie from having any kind of good relationship with her daughter Natalie, who has returned to Wicklow to start over again. Natalie, harboring anger, guilt, and grief of her own, struggles to be even civil to her mother. She grew up with a mother who was cold, strict, and overbearing. 

Anna Kate is the key to a whole lot of healing that needs to take place in the town of Wicklow. Not just herself, but the Linden family, and the whole town have suffered over the years. But word of the blackbirds brings bird enthusiasts in to witness the astounding midnight singing, and that, along with Anna Kate's reopening of the cafe, may just be what Wicklow needs to thrive. But will Anna Kate stay? If she goes, what will happen to the mulberry trees, and the blackbirds? 

The big message of this book is about the toll grief can take on a person, and even a community. Grief may seem endless when you're in the throes of it (I speak from experience), and the pain can wear you down. But that is the price you pay for loving others, and loving them with all your heart. All those years of love are worth it. But you can't continue to live in the past. If anything, grief should empower you to live your life to the fullest, and embrace every day. 

Another theme is making choices for yourself, instead of doing what everyone else wants you to do, or expects you to do. When it all comes down to it, keeping promises to others that will keep you from what you love is a sure way to be miserable. Follow your heart. 

I enjoyed visiting the town of Wicklow. I like to think somewhere there's an actual place just like it, just down the road and around the bend. 

Rating:  4/6 for an enchanting little town, memorable characters, and a thoughtful look at living on when our loved ones leave.  

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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