Celebrating Our Culture   

Recipe for Friendship
An Interview with Novelist Lynne Hinton
by Joyce Dixon

Whether it is a group of men who hunt and fish together or a group of women who meet for lunch, at the beauty salon or a women’s club – friendships inspire and define the culture of the South.  Lynne Hinton in her debut novel Friendship Cake captures the unique qualities of bonding that brings five unlikely women together as friends. 

For her setting, Hinton chose the Women’s Guild of Hope Springs Community Church in North Carolina.  This was a natural choice for Hinton, who serves as pastor the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheboro, North Carolina.  She comes from a family known for putting their faith into action.  Her father and brother serve as Southern Baptist ministers and her sister is a youth minister.  Lynne Hinton credits her family with preparing her to heal with words.  “ My upbringing was conservative and strict and even though I have landed in a very different place theologically from my parents and siblings, the significance of faith is of up most importance for me. Faith has some pretty important components that certainly affect me, components like hope, purpose, wholeness, and love. Because I was raised in a home where faith was taught and valued, I cannot escape the hold faith has on my living and my writing.” 

In Friendship Cake, the women join to support Louise Fisher as she cares for her best friend and Alzheimer’s patient Roxie.  Lynne Hinton drew on her experience as a former hospice chaplain, and acknowledges that experience with shaping her ministry and giving her the courage to tell stories.  Hinton discovered three major life lessons from the hospice.  “ 1. Life is short; don't waste time being petty or holding yourself back. 2. Tell the people you love that you love them. You never know when that last chance will be. And 3. Laugh deeply and a lot and cry as much as you need.” 

If Hinton’s goal is to heal through words, she picked women in life situations that needed to be healed through the spirit, soul, and body.  Some of her women could be considered controversial in a small southern town.  Her group of women included: a young pastor who craved the order of the church compared to the dysfunction of her home; a black activist who joined a white church as an act of rebellion then made it her home; a bossy woman and funeral home cosmologist who made up corpses as she thought they should have looked in life; a childless teacher who attracted teenagers with problems and was a natural peacemaker; and a woman who passionately loved another woman yet never acted on that desire physically.  

Hinton admitted that the story lines are controversial.  “Some folks won't be comfortable with them. My parents still have not spoken about them with me. But the issues and the characters weren't ‘chosen’ like a text for a sermon. They just appeared and had to be dealt with. I only hope I did them justice.”

As the story develops in Friendship Cake, the process of sharing and bonding nurtures the cookbook committee members.  According to Hinton, “a woman's church committee is loaded with possibilities for grace, every church committee is; that is what's so great about them. That is what is so great about the church. A group of folks can think they're just meeting about stewardship or building and maintenance and the next thing you know, somebody prayed and the Holy Spirit decided to come calling. When a committee is open to a force greater than themselves, it can be an exciting place to be!” 

As Hinton began writing her novel, she found she was dealing with “a bunch of noisy women.”  Hinton described it this way, “It was like these characters all sort of barged in my room and started talking. The only way I could make any sense out of it was to say, ‘alright, one at a time.’ Writing the chapters in the beginning with the different voices [or point of view each chapter] was simply a way for me as the ‘scribe’ to tell their stories.” 

In Friendship Cake, each chapter is introduced with a recipe by that chapter’s voice.  “There is some relationship in every chapter between what happens in that chapter and the recipe,” Hinton explained.  “It's fairly obvious I think, wedding cookies, a wedding happens, pickle recipe for a chapter with a conflict, Beatrice and her prune cake; some sort of connection is intended.  The recipes came from a local restaurant, Fran's Front Porch, the owners were members of my last parish, and a church cookbook from one of the first churches I ever worked in, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, Greensboro.”

This past spring, Lynne Hinton taught a writing seminar at the National United Church of Christ Women’s Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.  “As with any workshop I lead, I wanted the participants at the creative writing workshop to have permission! Permission to feel and experience and taste and smell and eavesdrop and dance and cry and write! Lots of permission to write!” 

Lynne Hinton’s first published book was a fifty-two week devotional called Meditations for Walking.  The book takes the reader through the season on a journey of self-discovery in faith.  Hinton was inspired by a real life event.  Meditations for Walking came from my experience of trying to clear away a path in the pine tree forest behind our house,” Hinton remembered.  “As I "unbuilt" and walked the path, I learned all sorts of lessons for my spiritual life. And there are so many images of walking in the Bible. I had lots of texts to choose from!”

Lynne Hinton has been busy with booksignings since Friendship Cake was released in April.  “The most exciting event since getting published is finding my sixth grade teacher,” Hinton smiled.  “Ms. Bullard was a very important adult in forming who I am now as a woman. I loved her! And I thought I would never see her again. At one of my signings, she showed up. I still cry when I think about it. It was so right to find her again. And now, it looks as if we're going to be friends. Reunion is a very cool thing. That's why I think heaven will be a gas.”

Lynne Hinton’s next novel is The Things I Know Best, a coming of age story, to be released in Fall, 2001.

Friendship Cake - Book Page at HarperCollins
Friendship Cake Southern Scribe Review 
Books by Lynne Hinton
Friendship Cake, HarperSanFrancisco, 2000
Meditations for Walking, Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 1999