It begins by......"There's two things in life a man can't get enough of," my mama told me. "Good cookin' and good lovin'." I was hooked! The story takes place in Chulahatchie, Mississippi with mentions of Ole Miss and flawed characters known as Peach Rondell, Tansie, Scratch, Boone, Fart (real name Theodore) Unger and Dee, the main character. Dee finds herself fifty-one, untrained, a new widow and pretty much penniless. Her life has crumbled before her, but she forges ahead, relunctantly, and falls back on her one true ability, cooking. Hence, the birth of the Heartbreak Cafe, which becomes the meeting place of this group of unlikely friends. There are a few "special recipes" included toward the end which are each inventions of the characters!
Spread peanut butter on the two slices of toast. Add strawberry jam to the peanut butter on both sides. Fry up the Spam in a skillet. Lay the Spam on top of the peanut butter and jam and close er' up. Perform a surgical incision diagonally from corner to corner. Good with Milk!
Penelope Stokes was raised and received her formal education in Mississippi. She left the South after graduate school and spent fourteen years in Minnesota, teaching and editing. It was here she began her writing career. "I did a bit of wandering—Georgia, Connecticut, back to Mississippi for a while—but it didn't take me long to realize that my soul's home could only be one place: Asheville, North Carolina, a small city in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains."
Penelope states that being a southern writer is, in many ways, bred in the blood and the bone. "Place is very important to me—not just the physical environment of my home and office and the vistas I take in on a daily basis, but that "sense of place," the internal compass that keeps drawing me back to where I belong, to the connections that nourish my soul."
"Because in the long run, fiction is about people. Not just about what happens to them, but about what happens in them—the spiritual, emotional, and psychological passages that lead people to an understanding of their inner selves, and of one another. I write about the heart, the mind, the soul. I want to write novels that combine authenticity of character with profound spiritual dimension—books that are original, imaginative, and intrinsically true to life. I want to draw readers in, allowing them to perceive a different kind of world—one marked by purpose, significance, and most importantly, hope."
" I believe that ultimately, our character is determined not so much by the certainties we cling to, but by the uncertainties we are courageous enough to face. When we're committed to going deeper, to following the unknown path, our journey can lead us to an understanding of our own inner being, to a connection with a power that is both within us and beyond us. And that understanding, that connection, gives meaning and purpose to our days."
Right before she died, my mama said, "Dell honey, lemme tell you something. When you come to the end of your days and are looking down the barrel of eternity, ain't nothin' gonna matter in this life or the next, except how well you loved the people you love."