Friday, July 1, 2011

REVIEW: Birthday Pie by Arthur Wooten

Birthday Pie (pecan pie, to be specific) is the story of Lex Martindale, big city author returns home for his birthday, to say goodbye to his dying father . . . and to possibly share his own tragic secret.

If only they would give him the chance.

As is the case with any family drama, there’s a lot of angst, frustration, and dislike haunting the surface of this reunion. Here we have a gay man, his eccentric sister, his alcoholic brother, his overbearingly religious sister-in-law, his drama queen mother, and his dying father. When the pre-pubescent niece and elderly grandmother are the only voices of reason, you know things are going to be awkward.

As someone who doesn’t have a strong sense of family, who doesn’t like conflict, and who would rather leave the house and go for a long walk than watch people I care about fight, I had a hard time getting into the story. Fortunately, it was very well-written, with enough humour to provide some much-needed breathing space. I particularly like the way in which young Mattie misinterprets her mother’s religious ramblings, firmly convinced (for example) that eggs from the fridge and germs from a boy are the secret to getting pregnant.

You'd think grocery stores would put up sign or something! LOL

This is a novel that was originally written as a play, and immediately optioned as both a feature film and a television series. I’m not so sure about the movie aspect, but I can definitely feel the other influences here. The focus is entirely on the Lex and his family, and much of their dialogue does that have stage quality to it – so much so that you can ‘hear’ the characters talking over one another, fighting for their moment in the spotlight.

Beneath it all, however, this is clearly a family that loves one another dearly . . . even if they don't always act like it.

It’s a book that hits a little too close to my personal discomfort zones to really enjoy, but I admire what Arthur has put together here. If your sense of family is a bit stronger than mine, and you enjoy those spirited holiday dinner table discussions, you’ll likely find a lot here to appreciate.

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