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by Polly Horvath
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Apr 3rd 2002

Everything on a Waffle

Primrose Squarp denies that she is an orphan, even though her parents were lost at sea during a terrible storm.  She is sure that they are still alive.  But in the mean time, she moves in with her Uncle Jack.  Navy closures mean that their town of Coal Harbour, British Columbia is falling on hard times.  The remaining industries are fishing and whaling, and whaling is not a flourishing way of life.  Primrose’s Uncle Jack is a developer, and wants to revive the town by bringing in tourism.  He makes the career of developer seem exciting and benevolent.  But he does not have a great deal of time to spend with Primrose, and her does not much enjoy spending time alone in the house.  So she likes to spend time at the local restaurant “The Girl on the Red Swing,” where every dish is served on a waffle. 

Throughout this book are recipes for meals that Primrose eats during the book, and they are simple enough for readers to follow the instructions and cook the same meals for themselves – the easiest is for caramel apples, and the instructions for boiled potatoes are surprisingly complicated.  Primrose is an endearingly eccentric narrator of her own story – she eats her boiled potatoes with mustard – and uses words like “discombobulated” in explaining the problems she experiences in the small town.  Of course, being Canadian, Primrose has a slightly different point of view from non-Canadians (with a number of references to hockey), but the story should still appeal to an international readership.  The strengths of the book are its use of language and the colorful characters that populate the town.  It’s a good story, never becoming dull or repetitive, and Primrose has great strength of character.  Despite the theme of orphanhood and despite the many difficulties Primrose experiences, she is relentlessly perky, apparently never seriously entertaining the idea that her parents have in fact died.

The unabridged audiobook is read by Kathleen McInerney, who does a great job.  She makes the text lively and fun, and certainly makes you want to hear what happens next.  The main problem with the audiobook will be that those who want to make the recipes sprinkled through the book will have to copy them down carefully, but judicious use of the rewind and play buttons should make this a simple task.

 

Link: Audiobook web page, including a RealAudio excerpt

© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.