Three unlikely friends. One chance to save the community. It might just be the perfect blend…
The Marjorie Marshall Memorial Cafeteria is at the heart of St Jude’s Hospital. Staffed by successive generations of dedicated volunteers, for over fifty years the beloved cafeteria has been serving up a kind word and sympathetic ear along with tea and scones.
Hilary, the stalwart Manageress, has worked her way up through the ranks; Joy, the latest recruit, is driving Hilary mad by arriving late every day; and seventeen-year-old Chloe, the daughter of two successful surgeons, is volunteering in the holidays and bemused by the older women.
But when they discover the cafeteria is under threat of closure, the unlikely trio must put aside their differences. As they realise the secrets and sorrows they have in common, the women grow closer – but can they bring the community together and save the day?
Phil: Here’s an interesting problem. I enjoyed this book – it’s an undemanding romp and fun along the way – but all the time I was puzzled. Where was it set?
St Jude’s Hospital is the obvious answer. But where is this? Which country?
It’s one where they spend money in dollars. Healthcare is a business, but the money has the Queen’s head on, and people aspire to work for the BBC.
For a long while, I wondered if this was a British book that had been partially translated to an American scene (the dollars bit). It wasn’t until the end that there was mention of thanking the Australian publisher – of course! That would also explain the house with storage space underneath it too. Not something we tend to have in the UK, and if we do, we call it a cellar.
The other issue is that the main characters are all really interesting women, but we don’t really get to work that out until halfway through the story. OK, we figure out that Chloe doesn’t really want to be a doctor pretty early, but her endless water-guzzling had me assuming some sort of eating disorder, which it wasn’t.
Hilary has suffered a divorce, and more importantly, a fall from grace, when her husband (who turns up very briefly late in the book) turns out to be bankrupt, their life of luxury being a sham. Her relationship with her sister is fascinating, and a little under-explored. She also can’t use email, which infuriated me as I think someone who lived like she did would be a lot more tech-savvy.
Finally, Joy is really the centre of the story, and we learn of her loss and how she deals with her late husband. This was possibly the least satisfactory area – she talks to him and seems to interact, but we eventually learn this is all in her head. I like my narrators to be honest with me, but this might just be my very literal take on things.
Despite reservations, there’s a fun book here. I just wish someone had put a kangaroo in the first few pages so I knew where I was.