Set in Australia, this wonderfully insightful debut novel is set over the course of one day in the main character, Grace’s life. But it’s no ordinary day; it’s her 70thbirthday lunch. Over the course of the day, Grace works alongside her daughter, Susan, preparing the meal and slipping into memories about her past, mostly triggered by mundane tasks such as shelling peas or mixing gravy.
Soon a gentle story metamorphoses into a painful study of Grace’s own difficult childhood, a tragic teenage love affair, a loveless marriage and finally a family traumatized by grief, regret and resentment, resulting from a shocking event in their past that reverberates through the following decades. Soon it’s clear that Grace is not just cooking a birthday meal, she’s fighting to keep her family from falling apart and drifting away from her.
Piper achieves this in a subtle, skilful way using the medium of food. Grace remembers her own emotionally distant mother whose only way of showing her love and expressing her creativity was through her carefully prepared and wonderfully tasty meals. Grace remembers the rare intimacy of those moments when she watched her mother whip up meringues and sponge cakes from scratch, and attempts to do the same with her eldest daughter, Susan, now a tense and anxious mother.
As family members and friends arrive for the birthday celebration, the memories become more vivid and troubling, and the interactions with her own children more bitter and abrasive, until a final family showdown results in all the hurt being laid bare and all the grievances aired.
Piper masterfully creates Grace as an unconventional, humorous and free-spirited character. A strong-willed woman who is finally forced to face her unrealistic expectations of her children and her own shortcomings as a mother.
This incredible novel is not only a luscious and lyrical tribute to the power of food as a force to bring people together, it’s also an insightful reflection on the dynamic and powerful nature of family relationships. As Grace so aptly states:
Families were like sand dunes…. They shifted shape and position with even the gentlest of forces. Even a tiny puff – a shrug – could bring about change, move a handful of thoughts to a new understanding, a new authority. A gale, like today’s, and whole dunes – lives and futures – were relocated, reimagined.
Sally Piper is an award-winning Brisbane based writer. She is a former nurse and nurse educator, specialising in neurosurgical critical care, and has worked in both Australia and the UK.Sally has had short fiction and non-fiction published in various online and print publications, including a prize-winning short story in the first One Book Many Brisbanes anthology, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Saturday Paper, Weekend Australian and WQ plus other literary magazines and journals in the UK. She has been interviewed for radio, been a guest panellist at literary festivals and delivered many author talks and readings.Sally holds a Master of Arts (Research) in Creative Writing from Queensland University of Technology. During her post-graduate studies she also tutored on the QUT Creative Writing program. She currently presents workshops and seminars for the Queensland Writers' Centre and mentors on their 'Writer's Surgery' program.
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