Saturday, October 23, 2010

Buster Midnight's Cafe by Sandra Dallas

Published in 1990. 277 pages.

I've been wanting to read Sandra Dallas for a long time, so I was eager to get to this one - her first novel - for the October meeting with my "book lunch girls." I finished it this rainy Saturday morning while wrapped in a blanket in bed.

I think I started the book with a misconception. My friend Sue, who picked this month's book, had said we needed some lighter reading than we'd had recently, and she called the narrator "hilarious." My fourteen-year-old daughter, who read the book before I got to it, also said the book was "funny." As I started reading, however, although I found the characters to be fun and quirky - especially the names of Effa Commander and Whippy Bird, I wasn't finding the story to be at all funny. Poverty, prostitution, cancer, even boxing, are not light topics. Even the theme of friendship is one that I find more meaningful than light-hearted. (I looked up "light-hearted" in the dictionary: "Not being burdened by trouble, worry, or care; happy and carefree.") While friendship can, at times, be happy and carefree, I prefer relationships that are occasionally burdened by trouble, worry, and care - and the friendship of May Anna, Effa, and Whippy is certainly one with burdens.

I was about halfway through the book when I decided that it wasn't a light-hearted book and that I should just continue reading it through my personal worldview. Once that happened, I enjoyed the book a whole lot more. The power of friendship to sustain people through war, loss, and death. The ability of friends to come together to support and strengthen one another. The importance of assuming the best of those we love and seeing the good in them. Those are all themes I found in the novel. Dallas does a good job of exploring them through the lives and relationships of fun, quirky characters with an interesting and compelling storyline. I look forward to reading more of her work!

There is one aspect of the book that really bugged me. Effa Commander, the narrator of the story, frequently uses bad grammar - especially "me and ..." as the subject of a sentence. I understand that this was supposed to give the reader a sense of who Effa is, and while I accept that she is uneducated and unpretentious, her use of words in other ways is so beautiful and so effective that these instances of bad grammar grated on my nerves.

Have you read any of Sandra Dallas' books? Which one would you recommend I read next?



  1. I liked the fact that their friendship was strong without judgement - so, if I were, hypothetically, to become a murdering prostitute, you all would still love me!

  2. I'm glad you like this book and the author! I haven't read anything by her and this is the first time I heard of her. This book sounds like it has all the ingredients that makes it a great read.

  3. I've only read Tallgrass and hated it.

  4. I've read 5 books by Sandra Dallas. My absolute favorite was Tallgrass!

  5. Natalie: We'd even still love you if you voted for the "wrong" candidate for governor! :)

    Alice: Just more books to look for at the bookstore ... :)

    Melissa aka Daisy: Tallgrass is actually one I've had my eye on for a while. Why did you hate it?

    Joy: Which five have you read? Is Buster Midnight's Cafe one of the five? My mom sent Tallgrass home with my daughter tonight, so I guess I'll be able to find out what I think.

  6. I've never read anything by Sandra Dallas. I have to rectify that soon!

  7. I read:

    1. Whiter Than Snow (3/5)

    2. Prayers For Sale (3.5/5)

    3. Tallgrass (4.5/5) ~ Loved it.

    4. The Diary of Mattie Spenser (4.5/5) ~ Oh yes! I loved this one, too. If I remember correctly, there are 2 more that follow this one (trilogy, I guess), but I haven't heard great things about them.

    5. The Persian Pickle Club (2.5/5) ~ I have better memories than the rating I gave this one at the time.

    I think I have another 1 or 2 on my TBR shelves, but don't remember what they are right now.