pie

I

’ve always found pie to be intimidating. Not eating it, of course; I couldn’t be more at home slicing a slightly larger piece for myself than, say, you, and tucking into it with whatever whipped cream or ice cream or any other cream that might be handy. It’s pie making that’s always seemed like a deliciously remote art form, something swaddled in secrecy and passed from the flour-dusted hands of one generation to the next.

Sarah Weeks’ Pie, a sweet mystery for middle readers about love, loss and friendship, takes the titular dessert that has always served as a subject of personal fear and fascination and turns it into a metaphor for our connection to others while somehow managing to demythologize actual pie at the same time. (There are recipes!)

Polly Portman’s heart was big—so big, in fact, that there seemed to be room in it for her entire hometown. When her parents leave her a small sum in their will, Polly turns the money into a bakery called ‘Pie’ where everyone’s favorite kind of pie is remembered and no one pays for a single slice. Polly’s pie crust puts her small town of Ipswitch, Pennsylvania, on the map, creating a destination for culinary tourists—and jobs for her friends and neighbors when services are needed to support it.

But Polly passes away unexpectedly, leaving her 11-year-old niece Alice bereft and struggling to solve the mystery surrounding the whereabouts and dispensation of Polly’s valuable pie crust recipe. Did Polly really leave her award-winning recipe to her cat, Lardo? Is someone trying to make off with Lardo and the million dollar recipe before Alice can make sense of it all? And how is Alice supposed to go on anyway, now that her aunt has gone forever from her life?

Polly’s Pie shop had always served as a point of connection for the community. In the absence of her generosity and the sweet fruits of her labor, however, Alice and the denizens of Ipswitch find themselves longing for pie, but they also begin fumbling for each other. Neighbors remember Polly by recreating her recipes and they begin to build relationships directly with one another—friendships that might otherwise never have been realized.

Mixed up in her grief over Polly’s passing is the recipe for Alice’s way forward. In her search to solve the mystery of the potential pie crust thief, Alice is brought face-to-face with her difficult relationship with her mother and given an opportunity to improve upon it. And before they can become best friends, Alice and Charlie Erdling have to discover the important things they have in common: a love of ‘50s-era crime-solving television series, Sky King, and a devotion to Aunt Polly and her pies. In Pie’s Alice, young readers have a heroine who manages to survive heartbreak changed but still nourished. Loss creates a space that she bravely—if haltingly—extends herself across to find hope in new friendships, buoyed by the love so unstintingly served up by her late, great aunt.

It’s enough to make you go back for more.


It’s here! It’s here! The first-ever WendyWrites event happens tomorrow, Aug. 10, at Albuquerque’s best independent bookstore, Bookworks. Unless you live in Canada (or Taos because I told you the wrong date), meet us at 10:30, when Peaches will read a few pages from this entirely lovely book. Roy will be on hand, too, doling out delicious treats from our friends at the New Mexico Pie Company. There will even be a little something crafty for the kids to do, too. We hope to seeing you there!