Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: This Cake Is for the Party

Summary: Shortlisted for the acclaimed 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award, and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize Best First Book Award, This Cake Is for the Party has received consistent rave reviews praising debut writer Sarah Selecky.  

In these ten stories, linked frequently by the sharing of food, Sarah Selecky reaffirms the life of everyday situations with startling significance. For upmarket women’s fiction readers that love stories which reflect the joys and pitfalls of marriage, fidelity, fertility, and relationship woes, this collection is a conversation starter. This Cake Is for the Party reminds us that the best parts of our lives are often the least flashy. Reminiscent of early Margaret Atwood, with echoes of Lisa Moore and Ali Smith, these absorbing stories are about love and longing, that touch us in a myriad of subtle and affecting ways.

With more than 10,000 copies sold in Canada, where she was named the CBC Book Award's Best New Writer, Sarah Selecky proves she is an exciting new voice with a promising future. -- Thomas Dunne Books
In the past, I would preface this review for THIS CAKE IS FOR THE PARTY by Sarah Selecky by saying that I don't enjoy short stories. However over the past few years (and after adoring OLIVE KITTERIDGE), I've come to realize that I do appreciate some short story collections. THIS CAKE IS FOR THE PARTY is one of them. I thought this literary book about the ups and downs of everyday life was extremely well-written.

It's hard for me to summarize THIS CAKE IS FOR THE PARTY. It is a collection of ten stories, many of which have a common theme of food (although I think it's misleading to think this is a foodie novel.) Rather, this book deals with some of the complex issues of early adult life including marriage, adultery, friendship, and parenting. Many of the stories have a common thread of longing, surprise, and even disappointment.

What I can definitely say about this collection is that the characters and their actions are extremely real and many of these stories will resonate with readers. I think that's a huge testament to the author, Ms. Selecky. Her prose is gorgeous and her descriptions are so precise. I found the actual writing in this book to be even more interesting that the stories themselves. (Not that the stories and the characters weren't interesting, but the writing is exquisite!)

As is the case any time I read a collection of short stories, there are some that work better for me than others. I can honestly say that all of the stories were quite good, but the last story called One Thousand Wax Buddhas really impressed me. It is the story of a woman named Robin who basically sees the world through a different lens than the rest of us. It is apparent from the beginning that this story will not end happily -- there is a great deal of foreshadowing. What I enjoyed was how the tension in the story built and how the story was paced. It was extremely well executed.

THIS CAKE IS FOR THE PARTY would make a fantastic book club selection for groups who enjoy literary fiction or short stories. The characters and their actions are thought-provoking and most people will find a lot to discuss. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a readers guide, but I'm fairly confident that most clubs will find plenty to talk about on their own.

Overall, I enjoyed THIS CAKE IS FOR THE PARTY. It's a beautifully written collection of short stories that is sure to resonate with readers because of the realism of the characters.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.


bermudaonion said...

I've come to enjoy short stories more too. They're perfect when life is really busy. This collection sounds interesting but I doubt I could get my book club to read it.

Beth Hoffman said...

I've not heard of this collection before but will definitely be adding it to my list. I really enjoy short stories and like to read them when I'm in-between hefty novels. Thanks, Julie!

Beth F said...

This is new to me. I think I'd be attracted to the general food theme (even if it's not a foodie book). I too have gotten more tolerant of short stories -- especially when I'm overwhelmed with work.