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CIDL Head of Adult Services

Evan Smale

Email: smalee@cidlibrary.org 

Phone: (248)625-2212

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*** All book groups are temporarily meeting virtually ***

 

CIDL currently offers four book groups for adults, ranging from onsite, offsite, and virtual!

 We also offer book kits available for checkout!

 

 

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Staff Recommendation: Midnight at the Blackbird Café

“A captivating blend of magic realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town Southern charm.”

I came across the above quote while doing a little research on author, Heather Webber.  It was written of about another of her books (South of the Buttonwood Tree,) but I feel it captures in a nutshell what Midnight at the Blackbird Café is about.

What It’s About

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.  (Summary courtesy of Heather Webber’s website.)

My Thoughts

I found myself instantly drawn into the quirky little town of Wicklow, filled with Southern charm and peculiar, but very likeable characters.  The main character, Anna Kate, is someone I was rooting for from the get-go, and she did not disappoint.  Let me give you a bit more on Anna Kate’s back story. 



Anna Kate’s mom, Eden, left Wicklow when she was six weeks pregnant with Anna Kate and never went back.  Her boyfriend, the love of her life, had died in a mysterious car crash, and his parents blamed her for his death.  Eden, only 18 years old, knew she was innocent, but rather than fight his parents, she took her unborn baby and left town.  She was determined to never again live in Wicklow or to allow those grandparents to know their son’s child.



Wow, that’s a lot of history for Anna Kate to face when she heads to Wicklow for Granny Zee’s funeral.  Her mom died four years previously, so Anna Kate travels to Wicklow alone.  After the funeral, when Zee’s will is read, she learns her grandma stipulated she must stay and work in her Blackbird café for a short period of time before she can sell the place and leave Wicklow, never to return, if she so desires.  But Granny Zee knew, or at least hoped, the strange, magical pull of Wicklow would draw her beloved granddaughter in and provide her the support and love she would need now that she was basically all alone.



And that is exactly what happens.  She meets those grandparents, who did not even know she existed until she turned up for Zee’s funeral.  One is kind and loving, the other prickly and suspicious, but she comes to know them both and to learn their side of the story.



She discovers she has an aunt, Natalie, only four years older than herself.  Just a child when her brother/Anna Kate’s dad died, she too was marred by this family tragedy.  She’s just recently returned to Wicklow herself, toddler daughter in tow, after the unexpected death of her own husband.  She is a lost soul and bonds quickly with Anna Kate over their mutual pain and family confusion. 



Helping her to keep the café running are Bow and Jena.  They’ve been in Wicklow for decades.  But who and why are they really there? 



Living next door to the café is Gideon, the good-looking attorney who helped Zee with all her legal matters, including writing her will.  He wants to get to know Anna Kate better, but somehow their romance keeps getting interrupted, just like in a Hallmark Christmas movie.   



And all the town folk, well they loved Granny Zee and are eager to make her granddaughter one of their own.  Whether or not she likes it or the way they insert themselves into her life.



And then there are the blackbirds, a flock of mysterious birds who live in the mulberry trees around the café.  They only sing at night, but often seem to be speaking to Anna Kate.  And when they land on a porch railing or window sill, allowing Anna Kate a close-up look, the eyes that look back at her are the eyes of her deceased family members.



Ah, the blackbird pie.  Everyone in town is drawn to it and people line up to get a piece before the café sells out each day.  It’s said the pies convey messages from dead loved ones through dreams, but the messages stop when Anna Kate starts baking the pies.  Can she figure out the missing secret ingredient that made Zee’s pies so magical?

 



I’m not a real big fan of magic, but the touches of what’s referred to as “magical realism” in this book are interesting.  Pie that allows you to communicate with deceased loved ones?  I’ll take a slice.  Blackbirds that point the way for Anna Kate when she’s floundering?  Helpful little creatures.  And is it just possible that Bow and Jena are shapeshifters?!?!  Maybe. 



Anna Kate could have just shut down when her estranged grandparents showed up and insinuated themselves into her life, but I like that she was smart enough to listen to what they had to say and gave them a chance.  She knows that allowing her grandparents into her life is something she can do for herself and is not a betrayal to her mother.  She longs for this connection to the father she never knew.



Speaking of connections, I like the one that Anna Kate and Nathalie are able to make right from the start.  When Natalie’s brother died when she was only four, she lost her only sibling and became in essence an only child, something Anna Kate always was.  Now they have each other, both as family and as friends.



With Gideon located so conveniently next door, it’s almost as if Granny Zee was trying to set Anna Kate up with him.  Wink, wink.  And of course, as the executor of Zee’s will, he is involved in many aspects of Anna Kate’s new life at the Blackbird Café.  Very convenient, Granny.  Theirs is a slow-building romance that stays G rated through the whole book.  If you like old-fashioned romance, this book fits that bill nicely.



Before Granny Zee died, Anna Kate was headed to medical school at UMass in the fall.  But becoming a doctor was really more her mother’s dream for her than it was Anna Kate’s.  Will she head back to Boston and medical school to fulfill a promise to her mom, or will she stay in welcoming Wicklow and take a totally different path in life, surrounded by her newly found family and friends?  Check out this book and find out.  It’s a very heartwarming read, indeed.



 

 




 



Check out the full review here!

Beth Grai, Adult Services Librarian
Click here for past recommendations!

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