World of Pies by Karen Stolz Review

Hyperion, May 2000.
Hardcover, 160 pages.
ISBN: 0786865504.

World of Pies Edited by Karen Stolz

World of Pies is a beautiful and comforting book about growing up in a small town in Texas, and it is a delight to read on several levels. For those who enjoy the feel of holding a good book, World of Pies will not disappoint. Printed in an easy to read medium blue and fringed with lovely deckled edges, this book is of a size that easily fits into a book bag. And just so that the reader can truly experience the feeling of life lived in a small town, the recipes mentioned in the story are printed at the end of each chapter. There is nothing low fat or sugar free here though, and the reader can return to simpler days when everyone walked everywhere and ate what was provided.

Books about growing up and the lessons learned along the way have always been an endearing and instructive form of literature. Now Karen Stolz has presented us with a thorough understanding of what it is like to grow up in a small Texas town in the late fifties and sixties. At first, the reader will feel that reading this book is a great deal like reading a small town paper that tries to put down the local news in an interesting -- but not too alarming -- way. The tone also is reminiscent of those dormitory room bull sessions when college students would cautiously at first, then more bravely, share their most intimate stories about friends and family. Stolz introduces a cast of characters which, by the end of the book, seem like old friends.

In our contemporary world, where dysfunctional characters abound and new horrors almost fail to shock us, the story of Roxanne's life seems somehow reassuring. The story begins with a hot summer, a pie baking contest and playing baseball, and ends with a conversation with her own daughter about baking a perfect pie. All of the characters in Roxanne's story meet the same life challenges that require creative thinking and hard work to find solutions: these same challenges that the more dysfunctional people in many modern novels find so insurmountable. A father drops dead on Thanksgiving, the letters that a favorite aunt who never married had saved from a lesbian mistress, the young man who returned from Viet Nam injured in both body and mind, and the other little stories about real people all not different or new. What is different is how good people full of love for each other overcome these vicissitudes with grace, humor and affection. World of Pies is a wise and refreshing look at life that leaves the reader with a feeling of optimism. It also leaves the reader with some very tempting recipes for the foods that carried these good, strong people through life's trials .

--Sarah Ann Reaves

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