Friday, July 22, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Birthday Pie by Arthur Wooten

Description: When Lex Martindale, a New York City writer, goes home to celebrate his birthday and say goodbye to his dying father, he struggles with whether or not to share with his eccentric Southern family news of his own life-threatening situation. As we travel through seventy years of the Martindales’ rich and colorful history, unearthing forbidden loves, shattered hopes and tenacious dreams, we realize that this reunion is a volatile turning point in all of their lives. But as anger, resentments and jealousies erupt to the surface, it’s their laughter and irreverent sense of humor that prevails allowing for a quiet healing in this bittersweet, moving portrait, of the all-American family.

Review: Arthur Wooten is sneaky…. in the best possible way! Just when you’ve decided that Lex’s mother, former beauty queen Trudy Lee Martindale, is flaky and self-absorbed, that family matriarch Anastasia Battles is cruel narcissism personified, or that brother Roscoe is a shiftless dreamer (read: loser), you discover that there is much more to them than meets the eye.

But it’s the way that Wooten unveils his characters’ depth that makes him such an exceptional writer. In addition to having three successful novels, he is also a playwright, and playwrights depend heavily on dialogue to reveal character. Well, Wooten is masterful at fast-paced, witty dialogue that suddenly, unexpectedly, plunges through his characters’ facades and reveals their humanity. And, his dialogue provided me with some of the best laughs I’ve had in a long time – the severely-misinformed “birds and bees” conversation between young Mattie Lee and her friend Lowell had me hiccuping giggles for days.

Wooten is a story-teller extraordinaire. He can switch us from tears of laughter to tears of sorrow in a heartbeat. As the story progresses and each character’s backstory is revealed, we come to understand the secrets, heartbreaks, disappointments, traumas and tragedies that underlie their present day personas. The triumph of the Martindale family ultimately lies in each person’s ability to laugh, not only at each other, but at themselves, to forgive each others’ flaws and missteps, no matter how severe, and to love each other no matter what.

Wooten’s own buoyant humor and optimism shine through this book, even as some story lines remain – appropriately - unresolved, or unresolvable. It’s clear that he too, loves the Martindales, warts and all.

I highly recommend Birthday Pie as a cool treat to offset the summer heat and doldrums. The book is available on
Visit Arthur Wooten’s website at


  1. Hi Melissa:

    Thanks for the follow! Wanted to pop over and check out your blog. Glad I did! "The Christmas Village" looks like a cool story. What a neat premise. I anxiously await its release, and consider me a new follower.


  2. Thanks Bryce - thanks for coming by. The book is fun and full of surprises - if I do say so myself!Look forward to chatting with you.


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