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General Fiction Reviews 

     World of Pies
     by Karen Stolz
     Hyperion, 2000
     ISBN: 0-7868-6550-4

The debut novel by Karen Stolz is a charming story of a young girl growing up in Annette, Texas – a small town that blends images of Mayberry, Our Town, and Gidget.

Stolz’s well-crafted novel selects key moments in Roxanne Milner’s life and weaves ten short stories into a tale of a woman coming of age.  In each story a favorite food plays a part, and Stolz concludes each chapter with a recipe.  The novel comes full circle, beginning with twelve year-old Roxanne baking pies with her mother for the Pie Festival and ending with Roxanne teaching her own daughter to bake pies while describing the Pie Festival.

World of Pies offers a homespun and humorous look inside a small town family, but it also examines social issues during the 1950s to 1980s.  “World of Pies” examines changing attitudes toward bigotry in the 1950s, when Roxanne’s mother fights the pie festival committee to allow the black cook of a white household to enter her own pie, instead of her white boss entering the same pie as coming from “her” kitchen.  The picture of Mary Willis among the group of white women at the Pie Festival has the same impact as a Rosa Parks. 

“Your Mail Lady” explores the confusing time as a young person discovers their own sexuality and becomes aware of sexuality of those around them.  Roxanne has a crush on Annette’s first mail lady, who she discovers is dating the handsome mechanic.

“The Sort of Man My Father Was” is a charming love story.  Roxanne’s mother’s old boyfriend comes to dinner.  Her father stops coming home for lunch, and Roxanne fears that her parents are having problems.  One day at lunch, she follows her father to the YMCA where he is taking swimming lessons in the children’s class.  Another snooping adventure in her mother’s closet leads to the discovery of love letters from the old beau and swim champion.  Roxanne’s father takes them to the lake for a picnic and shows them his swimming skills.  Her mother shares with her why she loves her father.

“You Never Know” deals with compassion, loneliness, and suicide.  Roxanne takes a summer job as a maid at a motel.  One of the regular tenants there is a lonely accountant.  She befriends him and learns that he once almost committed suicide from being lonely.  Her compassion causes him to share his feelings and become a part of the community.

Other stories examine the death of Roxanne’s father, and her cousin Tommy going to Viet Nam and returning with battle fatigue and less one arm.   There are touching moments between Roxanne and her mother as well as Roxanne and her much younger sister.

World of Pies is a slice of life to be relished.

 
Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

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