Pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea and be prepared to be charmed by Heather Webber’s Midnight at the Blackbird Café.
Nestled in a small Southern town, the type where there is only one road in and one road out, not much is left to the imagination. But when two daughters of the town return under related circumstances, secrets are dragged out into the open, and a mysterious sighting of birds draws the eyes of outsiders, no one in town is immune to a sudden influx of questioning.
‘Midnight at the Blackbird Café’ by Heather Webber book review:
I have had some great pie in my life. Apple, blueberry, pumpkin, cherry, lemon, key lime, chocolate, etc. However, I have never encountered blackbird pie nor have I ever enjoyed a slice of pie that holds the power that a slice from Blackbird Café has over the town of Wicklow, Alabama.
The café serves as the backdrop of the novel, and rightfully so. It is the place where residents, old and new, frequently gather to enjoy sweet tea, pie, and of course, trade the latest gossip. And from the early pages, the café serves as the barrier between newcomer Anna Kate and returning daughter of the town, Natalie. The duo are both driven back to town due to similar circumstances — death.
For Anna Kate, the death of her grandmother Zee uproots her from Boston to settle the affairs of the café and fulfill the terms of Zee’s will. This includes taking over the operation for a set time. But Anna Kate has her sights set well beyond the town line, and the gossip surrounding her mother’s departure from Zee and the town when she was young fuels her desire to tick away at the days left of her service to the pie-eaters.
For Natalie, the untimely death of her husband leaves her and her daughter Olivia (aka Ollie) back in Wicklow. Her reconnection with her parents, however, is not a homecoming worth celebrating as she is greeted by her overbearing mother and indifferent father.
The magic of this novel does not stem from any type of spells, potions, or ancient books. Instead, the most gripping elements of the story are mined from the town itself, the people in it, and the indescribable connection to those who have departed from the world.
While, yes, the blackbirds connect the town’s residents to their departed loved ones in dreams, the novel is not all-consumed by the fantastical elements. Instead, the pie serves as fuel to not only the main characters, but also many of the side players in the novel. It can be a bargaining chip, a way to protect someone, or even, in one case, a weapon to keep someone away from answers.
While the Lindens and the Callows could not be more different, both familial lines share a passion for healing. The Lindens do it with a couple of letters tacked on to the end of their name — an MD or PhD will do — whereas the Callows choose to heal through food, comfort, and being present for those who need them. Anna Kate discover the power of the latter through her struggle to seek out the former.
The slow burn of the familial connections and how they influence these characters are what kept me wanting to know more and more about the secrets behind every “Harry Potter” door.
The connection between Anna Kate and Natalie, as they grow to know and accept each other as family, kept me turning the pages. Their bond is a refreshing take on estranged families discovering one another and coming together, not as instant friends or enemies, but something in the middle. The duo take turns riding their respective waves of grief. At times they find themselves drowning in anxiety, anger, sadness. And while they each isolate and retreat, they find their way out thanks to the members of the town and each other.
You will not be starved for character growth (although you may run to the grocery store to grab a pie by the time you reach the final page). And while there is a feeling of resolve at the end, the door is open for more stories from the town of Wicklow. What I loved most about the pie and the mysterious nature of its magic is what it symbolizes for the residents. Much like the living and breathing blackbirds in the tree for birdwatchers, the existence of the pie is the opportunity to witness magic. Whether you believe that a slice of pie will bring you closure or guidance is up to the taster.
“For now I don’t plan on eating any pie. But I reserve the right to change my mind.”
Midnight at the Blackbird Café will grip you from page one and make you wish you could have a standing appointment with in Wicklow for gossip with a side of pie.
‘Midnight at the Blackbird Café’ by Heather Webber synopsis:
Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.
It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.
As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.