Monday, January 31, 2022

Louise Miller - The Late Blomers' Club

Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie Diner, is perfectly happy serving up apple cider donuts, coffee, and eggs-any-way-you-like-em to her regulars, and she takes great pleasure in knowing exactly what’s “the usual.” But her life is soon shaken when she discovers she and her free-spirited, younger sister Kit stand to inherit the home and land of the town’s beloved cake lady, Peggy Johnson.
Kit, an aspiring–and broke–filmmaker thinks her problems are solved when she and Nora find out Peggy was in the process of selling the land to a big-box developer before her death. The people of Guthrie are divided–some want the opportunities the development will bring, while others are staunchly against any change–and they aren’t afraid to leave their opinions with their tips.
Time is running out, and the sisters need to make a decision soon. But Nora isn’t quite ready to let go of the land, complete with a charming farmhouse, an ancient apple orchard and the clues to a secret life that no one knew Peggy had. Troubled by the conflicting needs of the town, and confused by her growing feelings towards Elliot, the big-box developer’s rep, Nora throws herself into solving the one problem that everyone in town can agree on–finding Peggy’s missing dog, Freckles.
When a disaster strikes the diner, the community of Guthrie bands together to help her, and Nora discovers that doing the right thing doesn’t always mean giving up your dreams.

Comment: I added this to my TBR for the most common reason, which is the fact I saw a positive review about it, liked the blurb and now I finally got to it.

In this book we follow the daily life of Nora, a 42 year old divorced woman who lives and works in the same place since she was a young adult. Nora likes life in her quiet town, a place where things go at a very steady and slow speed, only having more movement when it's special holidays and during the summer, when tourists flock to be in a calm location and enjoying local traditions. However, one day Peggy the cake lady, as she is known, dies and leaves her house to Nora and her younger sister Kit, more a free spirit than Nora. They do plan on seeling for that will help them financially and, conveniently, a big company wants to buy but that would mean change in all sectors. The thing is, would that be good for everyone and for the town long term? While this is debated, Nora can't help but like Eliot, the company's representative who is a much more down to earth person than she imagined... but will he be too much of a distraction?

I would describe this story as one of those cozy dramas in a small town where the big conflicts comes from the usual source: will it be a good thing for the place to be updated, to have more movement of people, access to more modern things or should some spots remain the same, for tradition and identity is what tourists want anyway, but in detriment of better economy? I found this story to be something I could more or less identify myself, for I too, live in a small place and while change is necessary, too much might destroy the beauty that already exists.

However, that is where similarities end, and I could focus on the plot of this book since it is set in a very different place from my own, culturally speaking. It was almost like watching a movie, having so many references to the local diner/cafe owned by Nora, the protagonist. A place where everyone knows everyone, where people are simply kind and aware of each other's odd personalities and little quirkiness. At times, this felt a bit too perfect, in the sense it's hard to accept there wouldn't be more antagonist characters or a negative atmosphere surrounding some areas (meaning, politics and in terms of personal conflicts) but I suppose this wasn't the author's intention.

Nora is a fascinating character, for many certainly too accepting of misfortune and too timid, but I liked the fact she was steady on her look on life and in what she knew would make her happy or not. Of course, there's a hint of romance coming her way and the fact she is in her 40s makes for a change in the usual clichés in these types of stories, where everything works out perfectly. I liked Nora and her love interest didn't have solutions coming easily and their relationship developed at a very slow and cautious pace, after all they are mature people...

The big drama is centered on whether the town should embrace change or not (there's a certain parallelism with Nora's life in this) and how that affects everyone. All characters had an opinion, a take on the positive or negative outcome of a choice and some details were very well thought in this regard, I liked the ideas left on the page and what analyses that might suggest to readers. On one and, I liked things weren't easily dismissed so the focus could be another issue instead, but on the other there were times things dragged a lot.

This would be my biggest complaint, the slow pace at times got to nonmoving and this did affect my eagerness to read. I also think the different problems weren't done in a balanced way all the time, and sometimes it felt the tone of the story was too sad for the kind of inspiring goal the author seemed to be after. Perhaps it's just my impression, but a few changes in the problems the characters faced and perhaps a few more obvious romantic scenes might have given this a more positive vibe when necessary...

I don't think this would appeal to everyone but overall the style worked for me and I found the little odd details to be more on the quirky side than on the silly one. The end is positive and the allusion to the romance going on a good direction makes up for some less happy moments but I bet this could have been done much better too, even without going into cheesy territory. I liked reading this novel but the charming elements could have been balanced a little more strongly.
Grade: 7/10

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