The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie
If only life were as easy as lemon drop pie. At least that’s how Lolly Blanchard feels in Rachel Linden’s Wonderbread-bland The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie. Lolly’s whole life revolves around baking lemon meringue pies for The Eatery, the family business ever since the 1950s. The diner has seen better days and Lolly has sacrificed much to keep it afloat. She had been on the cusp of graduating college and travelling the world with her high school sweetheart, local bad boy Rory Shaw, when her mother dies unexpectedly in an accident. Her father Marty breaks down in the wake of this tragedy, and Lolly finds herself in charge of her younger sister Daphne and The Eatery alike, breaking up with Rory in the process and sinking into her Seattle area mire. She dedicates the next decade of her life to taking care of everyone else, even though her father refuses to let her change the way they run the diner and Daphne wants to teach yoga instead of go to college.
With a month to go to Lolly’s thirty-third birthday, Daphne finds an old diary of Lolly’s in their shared house, which bitterly reminds Lolly of her dreams of opening a restaurant aboard (even though we never see her do any cooking in the diner – that’s her father’s domain – and the only thing she’s ever seen baking is her signature pie), of seeing the world, and of being with Rory forever. But the past is the past, unchangeable and fixed. Or is it? Enter her quasi great-Aunt Gert, who believes in following one’s bliss and is happy to live on their property rent-free despite not doing anything to take care of Daphne and Lolly’s dad or help free Lolly from her emotional baggage so she could move on with her life a decade ago. She does wait tables for their nearly-empty diner and even clogs the toilet in the restaurant, just to show off how quirky she is. Anyway. She gives Lolly three lemon drops which possess magical qualities and will allow Lolly to follow her bliss by reliving three days in the lives she could’ve had. Candy one transports her to a world where her mother never died, but moved to Hawaii – taking Lolly’s father’s ashes with her. Candy two takes her to England, where she runs her own restaurant but is unfulfilled. And candy three shows her what it would have been like if she’d never broken up with Rory. Each treat gives Lolly a valuable lesson, and soon she starts wondering if she and Rory can make a go of it after all.
The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie is just about okay, with its decent prose at least making it readable and its unique plot devices adding in some fun. The characters and relationships between its covers, however, could definitely use some work.
Lolly is a whiner for about half of the book, but after the crap she’s been through, can anyone blame her? But she’s never made a bold move or stood up for herself even once in her life, so one wants to punch her into action during the first fifty percent of the story. The magical element is interesting, though all it really does is confirm that Lolly never needed to move away from her family and the diner and definitely should’ve stayed with Rory and had his two kids, one of whom tawks wike dis in her lemon drop marriage fantasy (and thus did the Tonstant Weader Fwow Up).
The groanworthy simplicity of the plot has been done many (MANY) times before; of course in the reality where Lolly has a sophisticated fiancé and a restaurant in London, she’s too thin and brittle and unhappy. Of course in the dream when she’s with Rory she’s happy but tormented by what she can’t have. But in reality, Rory plays at devotion and overvalues honor. The problem with Rory and Lolly’s romance is that the book works way too hard to convince the reader that Rory is this great guy when he’s bland – if caring. I didn’t sense that their love is some big, earth-shaking thing for him; after all, he easily moved on and married another woman. Meanwhile Lolly bends time itself to be with him. Sure, Rory does all of those romance hero things, like save her from a rapist, and smelling like rum and tobacco at the tender age of fourteen. He also makes out with Lolly, even though he’s involved with another girl, and decides to make a bold leap toward his own college dreams instead of staying in Seattle with Lolly.
Everyone else is a stereotype, from Auntie Mame Aunt Gert to free spirited baby sister Daphne. The girls’ mother even gets to stoically comment upon her own slow death thanks to having been administered a low amount of painkillers so she can guilt Lolly into keeping the family together. At least the book has the courage to throw in an unexpected final twist. In the end Lolly figures out her life’s not a waste. Too bad the same can’t be said for the reader’s time.
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Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier