Book Club: The Late Bloomers’ Club
The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller
When Jen and I were discussing a potential book review for her to do last month, she mentioned The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller. The way she described the book was so good, I immediately jumped on my Libby app to borrow it from my library… only to find my library didn’t have it! I’ve put in a request for the library to get a copy (don’t spend your own money on things when you don’t have to, folks!) and I eagerly await the day this book will be available to me. Until then, I hope you guys enjoy Jen’s review of it.
A delightful novel about two headstrong sisters, a small-town's efforts to do right by their community, and the power of a lost dog to conjure up true love.
Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie diner, is perfectly happy serving up apple cider donuts, coffee, and eggs-any-way-you-like-em to her regulars, and she takes great pleasure in knowing exactly what's "the usual." But her life is soon shaken when she discovers she and her younger, free-spirited sister Kit stand to inherit the home and land of the town's beloved cake lady, Peggy Johnson.
Kit, an aspiring--and broke--filmmaker needs to generate funding for her latest project, and is particularly keen when they find out Peggy was in the process of selling the land to a big-box developer before her death. The people of Guthrie are divided--some want the opportunities the development will bring, while others are staunchly against any change--and they aren't afraid to leave their opinions with their tips.
Time is running out, and the sisters need to make a decision soon. But Nora isn't quite ready to let go of the land, complete with a charming farmhouse, an ancient apple orchard and clues to a secret life that no one knew Peggy had.
Troubled by the conflicting needs of the town, and confused by her growing feelings towards Elliot, the big-box developer, Nora throws herself into solving the one problem that everyone in town can agree on--finding Peggy's missing dog, Freckles.
When a disaster strikes the diner, the community of Guthrie bands together to help her, and Nora discovers that doing the right thing doesn't always mean giving up your dreams.
Related post: Book Club: The Paragon Hotel
The Late Bloomers’ Club opens in the small town of Guthrie, VT where an older woman named Peggy Johnson (known as the cake lady, because she has a cake business) and her dog, Freckles, take a car ride that ends in a tragic accident. Peggy passes away in the accident and Freckles runs away. Later, a diner owner, Nora Huckleberry, finds that, despite not really knowing Peggy, she and her sister, Kit, have been left Peggy’s estate in her will. However, Peggy had been in the process of selling her estate to a big box company, who want to build on Peggy’s pretty sizable estate. This leads the town to obsess about the effect this will have on the local economy and culture.
Usually people tell you not to judge a book by its cover, but in this case I found this book to be exactly what it said it was - it was wholesome, sweet, and just an enjoyable book. The entire premise of the book is grounded in reality and despite the potentially mundane material I found I was pleasantly surprised by how enchanting the characters and plot was.
The comedy and the diner setting reminded me a lot of the movie/Broadway musical “The Waitress.” And the small two and the all the town meetings gave me deja-vu for the tv show “the Gilmore Girls.” If you liked either of these, you would definitely like this book!
Like many stories about people in small towns its the characters that make this story so engaging. Nora’s sister Kit and her new boyfriend, Max, come back to town shortly after the Huckleberries are willed the estate. As filmmakers, they are hoping that selling the estate will help fund their movie they hope to submit to a film festival in a few months.
There are points in the novel where the plot may seem predictable but the author, Louise Miller, finds a way to masterfully tell it in a way that doesn’t annoy the reader but makes you sympathize with the characters. For example, as the Big Box store’s representative, Elliot, comes to town, and the town begins to tear itself apart debating in town meetings. Predictably, Nora begins to crush on the Big Box store’s representative and usually for me this is when my eyes would start rolling and I would probably get annoyed at how unoriginal this development was, but I found the way Miller wrote this with so much originality that I couldn’t help but find it sweet and relatable. When Nora begins to fall for Elliot, it's less like “Romeo and Juliet” and more about the big picture of Nora’s life and her love for everyone in it. In an unoriginal version of this trope the town would notice and start getting in Nora’s business, but in Miller’s version the town is more concerned about the local economy and if having a big box store will affect tourism dollars. In retrospect, it’s a small thing to like about a book, but I think it gives the characters and the town more grounded realism.
Since graduating high school, I haven’t read many books that make me think of tone and atmosphere so clearly. Miller’s choice of words and sets a very distinct mood for the book that is just so infectious. Despite the fact it's a relatively simple story, I found myself unable to put this story down. I felt so engaged with it like I usually am with stories where someone is trying to save the universe, going to Mordor, or trying to defeat some big baddie.
The theme this tone solidifies is finding one’s self late in life. Nora has taken care of her family and the diner since her mother passed away when she was young. When the Peggy passes away, Nora makes it a mission to make the right choice on behalf of the town. Nora even tries to make it a mission to do right by Freckles, Peggy’s lost dog. When Nora rediscovers a passion for art while trying to support the town, she finds starting late in life can be a little scary, but is ultimately the most rewarding. Small examples of this are the waitress, Fern, who is recently divorced and is just starting over in life again; Kit and Max has to start their film over at least 3 times in a few months throughout the story; Elliot finds a spoilery reason to reinvent himself; and even Freckles the dog goes through a bit of a metamorphosis. Personally, I found all these changes for these characters are told subtly and over the course of the whole book, but to me as a reader looking at it all together, it seems to reinforce the idea that everyone is a late bloomer at something at one point or another, and maybe you just need to find the club or group of people that will support you no matter what. That being said that’s just my interpretation and I’d love hear what other people thought after reading this book!
All in all, I found this book to be lighthearted, sweet, and just generally wholesome. It was a refreshing change of pace to read a simple, yet engaging book whose characters are just trying to do their best for very compelling reason. I found the motivations of the town and the community to be very grounded and realistic. In general, Miller tells a good, light summer read and I definitely recommend it.
To re-emphasize the book club aspects of these reviews I have two questions for readers who’ve made it this far in the review.
Have you ever felt like a late bloomer with anything before in your life? Was there anything you ever started late with and were worried about taking a leap of faith? Comment below!
Which of the the following books would you like me to review next month:
Someone who will love you in all you damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg (Creator of Bo Jack Horseman)
Riding the Elephant by Craig Ferguson