Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pie Town by Lynne Hinton



Lynne Hinton's bestseller Friendship Cake was among the first books that drew me to stories that revolve around community.  When I saw that she had written Pie Town , I thought she had moved from on from the Hope Springs series to a new community, probably populated with another group of humorous and even eccentric residents. And, oh yes, there would also be a new dessert -- pie -- at the center of the story.  What a surprise Hinton had in store for readers.  Pie Town, New Mexico is unlike any fictional community I have ever encountered and that is what makes it so real it could be our own community. 

First of all, there is no pie in pie town, no yummy morsels that bring the little town fame and accolades.  No pie to be the cornerstone that binds people together as they meet for a fresh slice with daily coffee.  Instead, we have a town and a church that may believe they are friendly and welcoming, but instead are rigid, set in their ways, and even judgmental.  In the notes that follow the book, Hinton shares this insight behind her New Mexico town:
             Most church people will proudly announce about themselves to any visitor that they are a "loving" place, a "welcoming and hospitable" place. And yet, in my experience, this is not always the case.  Yes, churches can be quite welcoming and hospitable to the longtime members, the families who are connected to the area, the children who grew up in the church.  But for newcomers, churches can often feel alienating and cold.  As communities, as churches, as towns, as people, we are often not what we appear, and we are not always as good as we think we are.  It was this irony that interested me when I began the story." (p.328)

Hinton's point is well illustrated in the novel Pie Town.  Long time residents are comfortably settled into their lives and believe their small town to be friendly, but as one conversation between the sheriff and two nursing home workers (one is his ex-wife)  points out, the town have a history of shutting down new ideas and new people.   The town does take a deserved pride in how they have rallied around young Alex. the sheriff's grandson who was born with spina bonfida and is confined to a wheelchair.  When two new comers, one an inexperienced priest assigned to Holy Family church, and the other a young female drifter, come into town,  how will the town react?  Will they embrace them as they have embraced young Alex?  Is this town truly a family that will accept all? Or will the townspeople watch from the sidelines, waiting for both Father George and mixed up Trina to make unforgivable mistakes?

This story's strengths lie in the messed up people within it.  It is not a story that will have you laughing and chuckling.  You will probably be disturbed by Father George's lack of pastoral caring and Trina's bad choices which in turn lead others astray. And I am afraid you may recognize yourself, your town, or even your church in much of the story.  But I can also assure you, you will  be moved by Alex's struggle and his open heart.  In him, you will see Christ's love and desire to bring reconcilation to all.  With a little help from Alex's guardian angel, Pie Town might just be worth visiting. 

Note:  This novel has language and some sexual references that are more graphic than most titles I review, but they are realistic portrayals.

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