The Late Bloomers' Club - Louise Miller
My Review - 5 Stars
This may only be Louise Miller’s second novel but let the record reflect: if she’s writing it, I’m reading it. I feel right at home in the contemporary worlds she creates. The Guthrie townspeople we met in The City Baker’s Guide To Country Living feel like old friends so I was delighted we got to return in The Late Bloomers’ Club. The books are standalone but I love when authors set their novels in the same universe and allow readers to hunt for Easter eggs from book to book.
Nora runs the diner her parents started. It’s not just her job. It’s her identity. Her whole life is oriented around it, even the dream she set to the side. She is a steady presence, always taking care of everyone else.
Her sister Kit, on the other hand, is a wild spirit. She left town to pursue her dreams and hasn’t looked much back.
When Peggy the Cake Lady dies and unexpectedly leaves her house to Nora and Kit, the sisters are split on what to do about it. Nora is drawn to the house and the land and wants to protect Guthrie from HG, the corporation that wants to build a superstore there. Kit, however, wants to sell so the money can fund her film.
If there’s a Rorschach test based on which sister you prefer, consider me Team Nora. It’s not so much that Nora and I have a ton in common but my heart really went out to her as she dealt with disappointments and dreams deferred and the way she wanted more for her life but somehow settled for less.
In the middle of all this friction and difficult decisions, Nora is keeping an eye out for Peggy’s dog Freckles who went missing after Peggy’s accident. She’s also spending time with Elliot, the HG representative who isn’t quite as corporate as she expected.
The beauty of this story lies in the characters. They are fully realized: charming, quirky, hopeful, cynical, wry, dour, kind, compassionate. Sometimes all at once. Nora and Kit are opposites who share a foundation. Charlie and Fern at the diner who are more like Nora’s family. All the townspeople in their glory. Kit’s boyfriend Max pretty much stole the show for me, from his leading ladies tattoos to his Zenisms to his enthusiasm for baking even though he’s vegan.
I loved watching Nora figure out what to do about the house and in turn, her life. The inheritance forces her to ask herself some hard questions and Kit’s return forces them both to face the past. It really made me think about how we form our identity and the ways life can shift our passions and interests. But mostly, I was lost in the twists and turns of Nora’s unfolding days as she searches for Freckles, runs the diner, and figures out what she feels for Elliot.
This was a well-written, lovely story. It pulled on my heartstrings and the ending left me with a profound sense of satisfaction. I don’t know if Miller will return to Guthrie in her next novel but for now, I can rest knowing the townsfolk are doing the best they can and taking care of one another in the process.
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A delightful novel about two headstrong sisters, a small-town's efforts to do right by their community, and the power of a lost dog to conjure up true love
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 younger, free-spirited sister Kit stand to inherit the home and land of the town's beloved cake lady, Peggy Johnson.
Kit, an aspiring--and broke--filmmaker needs to generate funding for her latest project, and is particularly keen when they 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 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, 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.
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Disclosure: I received an advance copy from Pamela Dorman Books in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links included in this post.