A Wonderful Book About Family, Friends, Love, a Past and a New Future
Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber was a well written book. I was drawn in right from the start. It allowed me to forget about everything else and immerse myself in the lives of the characters in this story. A cozy, comforting feeling surrounded me as I read Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe. By the end of the story, I felt like I knew each character and felt a kinship with them. The story alternately focused on Anna Kate Callow and Natalie Linden Walker.
The story began in Wicklow, Alabama located in the northeast part of the state. It was a small, intimate southern town where everyone knew everyone else. There was something quite special and unique about Wicklow, though. In the mulberry trees right beside The Blackbird Cafe, blackbirds lived and only appeared between midnight and one a.m. When anyone who was lucky enough to hear them sing their beautiful song knew it was something that they would never forget. There was something else that even the locals flocked to Blackbird Cafe for on a regular basis. The homemade blackberry pie was known to allow their recipients to hear the voices of their loved ones that had departed while they slept. Some thought this very comforting and made it a ritual.
It was in this town that Anna Kate arrived to bury her beloved grandmother, Zee. This was Anna Kate's first time in Wicklow even though her mother had lived there most of her life until she was 17. Her mother, now deceased, had made Anna Kate promise that she would never go back to Wicklow. A long time ago, while living in Wicklow, something very tragic happened to her mother and she left Wicklow never to go back. Twenty-five years ago, there was a car accident that killed her mother's boyfriend who was also Anna Kate's father. Her mother was blamed by her boyfriend's family for killing their son. Her mother pledged never to go back. Remembering the promise Anna Kate had made to her mother, Anna Kate was anxious to settle her grandmother's estate, sell the Blackbird Cafe and return to Massachusetts where she was enrolled in medical school for the fall semester. When the terms of the will were revealed to Anna Kate, though, she learned that she had to remain in Wicklow and run the cafe for sixty days before she could settle her grandmother's estate and collect her inheritance. Knowing how her mother felt about this place, Anna Kate was not at all happy about the stipulations of the will. Anna Kate decided to give running the cafe a chance. None of the locals had ever met Anna Kate and so she quickly became the center of attention and their curiosity was awoken. Neither of which appealed to Anna Kate but she immersed herself full- heartily in trying to fill her grandmother's shoes by running the Blackbird Cafe and making the famous blackbird pies and trying to learn everything she could about her father.
At her grandmother's funeral, Anna Kate was greeted by many of the people of Wicklow. Everyone had something nice to say about Zee and wanted to know more about Anna Kate. Was she planning on staying? Why had they never met her before? Perhaps the most unusual occurrence of all was the flock of blackbirds that appeared at Zee's funeral to pay their respects to her. The blackbirds had been spotted swooping their way through town heading to Zee's funeral. When Anna Kate was a little girl her grandmother used to tell her stories about the blackbirds. The story went "Once upon a time, there was a family of Celtic women with healing hands and giving hearts, who knew the value of the earth and used its abundance to heal, to soothe, to comfort. Doing so filled their souls with peace and happiness. Those women held a secret." "The women are guardians of a place where, under midnight skies, spirits cross from this world through a mystical passageway to the Land of the Dead." Her grandmother often told her that it was the job of "us guardians to tend the trees, nurture them, and gather their love to bake into pies to serve those who mourn, those left behind.' Anna Kate had learned from her grandmother that the blackbirds played an important part in her heritage and who she was. Therefore, it was only fitting that the blackbirds appeared at Zee's funeral. None of the locals even questioned it but the tourists were baffled.' This phenomenon led to an unusual amount of bird watchers and tourists arriving in Wicklow. They wanted to have a chance of seeing the blackbirds. Wicklow, soon became a lot busier than usual.
Natalie Linden Walker came back to Wicklow after her husband drowned and left her a widow. Her husband had lost his job and accumulated lots of debt before he drowned and died. Natalie knew nothing of his financial worries. Having had to sell off everything to settle her dead husband's debt, Natalie and her young daughter, Ollie (Olivia Leigh) found themselves living in her parent's guest cottage. As a result of all the trauma Natalie had experienced when her husband died, she was experiencing panic attacks. She made sure she and Ollie stayed away from any kind of body of water, too. Natalie's mother, Seelie Earl Linden, never approved of Natalie's husband. Natalie and her mother hadn't had a good relationship from the time Natalie was a toddler. After losing her eighteen year old son in that tragic car accident, Seelie wrapped herself in a cocoon of grief. Her once warm, loving relationship with Natalie, who was three when her brother died, became one that had frozen Natalie out of her life. There was "a stone-cold silence" in place of smiles, hugs and kisses. Natalie, had heard over the years, that eating the blackberry pie made at the Blackberry Cafe, allowed a person, who had lost a love one, an opportunity to hear from the deceased in their dreams. Natalie was never sure if her husband's drowning had been an accident or suicide. She needed to know to move on. Natalie was convinced she would find out the truth by eating the blackberry pie. There was one big obstacle though. The Lindens and the Callows were not on speaking terms. No member of the Linden family had stepped into the Blackbird Cafe since the accident.
When each of my parents passed away there was a moment when days after they died they allowed me to see them one more time for an instant. It was comforting. Memories always allow us to hold our dear ones that have departed close to us forever. They are never far from our thoughts.
This is the first book I have read by Heather Webber. The characters were rich, complex and most likable. As the plot of Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe developed their was the underlying factor of family being most important. There was anger, grief, love, forgiveness and letting go of the past. Both Anna Kate and Natalie had to learn to do what was good and right for them, not what everyone expected or wanted them to do. I hope there is a sequel to this book. It could most certainly be a mini series on Netflix. I highly recommend Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber.