I’m never quite sure how to review literary books. I read so few of them that I forget sometimes that not every plot needs to have dragons, spaceships, or bizarre sex scenes in order to exist. I’m used to dissecting whether or not there’s too much technobabble or whether or not we’ve gotten a “confused farmboy” origin story; however, I’m much less adept at turning my critical gaze towards work that’s just simply about life.
But after stumbling across an article Landis had written about her loud debate with a Pro-Life advocate, I knew I had to explore her fictional work. Not only have I rarely heard of local authors who interest me, but her honest and heartfelt way of expressing herself captured my interest right away. I’m also a big fan of any media where women form close friendships, and explore their own lives largely (or entirely) without the interference of men. Some Days There’s Pie satisfied on both fronts: A series of personal vignettes and stories from the perspective of the book’s protagonist, Ruth Ritchie, coupled with her blossoming friendship with the book’s other protagonist, Rose. (The men involved are fleeting and insignificant–as they should be, because pretty much all of them are immature jerks)
Reading very personal literary stuff like this has always filled me with a sense of longing for a better life. More specifically, a life in which I’ve had interesting experiences or relationships that would make good stories, rather than the broken mess most of my years have been. The problem with me is, I was never really given a choice as to whether or not I was allowed to experience life. As someone who grew up under the thumb of an emotional abuser and narcissist, my life was about as broad as a pinhead. Naturally, the crux of books like Some Days There’s Pie is that people get out and have experiences–mostly, talking to other human beings, something I was rarely allowed. That’s where their stories come from, and unfortunately in my case, that’s stolen time I can never really get back.
Books like Pie used to really upset me because of that longing, but over the years I’ve realized (slowly) that this is OK; books like this are meant to evoke that kind of nostalgic need in the reader. It’s not necessarily a flashing warning sign that I’ve done something “wrong”, or that my life has been wasted or ruined. In fact, it’s just as rich and loving as anyone else’s existence…simply in a different form.
That’s where a lot of my appreciation for this book comes from, actually, because Some Days There’s Pie makes it clear that everyone’s stories are important, no matter who they are. More over, it insists that everyone has stories, which of course, we do. It’s simply a matter of not being afraid to tell them, even if it’s just to one single person. Stories and people are valuable, (even when they do foolish things) and you should listen when you can. While a lot of the characters in Pie frustrated me because they were just so damn stubborn, or protective of their ignorance/destructive behavior, the book never goes out of its way to tell you who you should or shouldn’t root for. There are a few “bad guys”, but for the most part, the book just lets people be who they are and leaves the decision-making up to you. Sometimes, how other characters are perceived changes as Ruthie changes, which I’ve found is pretty much how life works.
To be honest, Ruth reminded me a lot of my own mother. Somehow, Ruth is surrounded by small-mindedness and fear, yet she manages to deflect nearly all of it with a sense of inner defiance so strong she can lose everything (and everyone) in her life yet still raise a beer to it. (She also has a strong predilection for existing on nothing but cigarettes and coffee, which was basically my mom when she was younger.) Go, Ruthie, go.
I noticed a lot of the other reviews for this book pegged it as “boring” or “dull”…and I guess I can see that. The book is laid out so that certain, exciting plot points pop up very dramatically, then get put on hold while Ruth goes on a tangent either about her past or about a story Rose once told her. For some folks, I can imagine that would be frustrating. Since I have an enduring fascination (and maybe even slight addiction) to hearing stories about other people’s lives–especially the secret, personal things that most people don’t share except in books like this one–no matter what the context or framing, my tolerance for this is a lot higher than it is for some. If you think of yourself as someone who wants to GET TO THE PLOT RIGHT AWAY, DAMN IT, then this book may lose you. In my opinion, it’s worth sticking it out; but of course we’re all different.
All in all, Some Days There’s Pie was a really touching and enjoyable experience for me. As such, I recommend it highly. I’ll be reading Catherine’s other book, Harvest, very soon.