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.