Heartbreak Cafe

I walked out of Barron’s Bookstore the other day with an armload of summer reading. Though I have an Agatha Christie biography on my bedside table, inevitably I reach for the novels first. And I’m not talking thrillers or depressing tomes about social issues, I want fun reads for these hot, humid nights.  Since I’ve enjoyed other novels by Penelope Stokes, I started with her latest book. Heartbreak Cafe.  The back cover said there were two things Dell’s mama told her a man couldn’t get enough of: good cookin’ and good lovin’. And without spoiling anything for you, I will say Dell learns some painful, gut-wrenching lessons regarding those truisms. The title doesn’t lie.  But that doesn’t mean this a sad story that takes you to the pit of despair either. Dell goes to the pit, but the chapters are short and it makes the ride easier. I did learn about an interesting concept in a therapeutic painting experience. Dell participates in this unusual emotional expulsion (she paints her emotions in group therapy) and through it learns how to release her grief, broken dreams and recognize the people who are her true friends. And those friends are what make this book such a pleasure to read. It’s a southerner’s book, filled with far out names, plenty of kudzu and fried pies. Penelope Stokes may have done the impossible in giving a heroic, and romantic character, the name of Fart Unger. And there’s almost nothing better to read than watching someone so hurt pull themselves back into peace. I’ll  take a slice of pie from the Heartbreak Cafe any day.