This is a bittersweet story about quirky yet ordinary characters in a little out-of-the-way place in Oklahoma. The point of view swings from one perspective to another. MollyO is protective of the cafe’s owner, a complicated man who was rendered paraplegic in Vietnam. She longs for her daughter, Brenda, a runaway, to come home and stay. Bui is living covertly in a nearby church. He comes to work at the cafe. I watched this character unfold particularly carefully. I live in an area where there are a lot of Vietnamese immigrants, and I watched for stereotyping or assumptions on the part of the writer. In the end, though, Bui rang true to me, an endearingly familiar sounding man with a really good heart. And then the list continues.
I don’t like small towns; I prefer large northern metropolitan cities. I do like to read novels featuring working class protagonists, though, and I think it was this feature, believably rendered without undue sentimentality, that worked for me. I have older family members who lived in Oklahoma before I was born, and this novel evoked a strong pull on them, a sense of place nearly tangible to them.
If four and a half stars were possible, I’d give them here. Read it if you enjoy good fiction with strongly drawn characters.