Gloria is headed to Geek Camp with her life planned. She will go to camp, reject the college scholarship she will be offered for having attended the camp, complete her senior year of high school, and then head off to New York City – best friend in tow – to attend NYU. But summer camp – and being separated from your best friend – has a way of casting shadows on “life plans.” New teachers, new friends, and fresh love have a way of confusing everything.
I’ll admit it, I picked this book up (months ago – sorry library!) because of the cover. It’s a beautiful cover featuring a diner’s vinyl seat and little blue butterflies bathing in a wash of sunlight coming in through the (clean) diner windows. This is the diner, presumably, where Gloria and her three classmates meet several times in the novel and where the sign states “Breakfast Served Anytime”.
And! it’s a great title.
I think quoting the author from the inside, back flap is a good place to start. “When people ask me what my book’s about, I sometimes falter – it’s about a zillion things, after all!” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Because, see, everything I’ve ever read since at least the fourth grade states that you should be able to state what your writing is about. Research papers, essays, and, for the love of best sellers everywhere, your novel. In this book there is slavery, racism, coal mining, mountain top removal, “coalition,” global warming, “big farming” vs. “real farming,” gay marriage, and lesbianism. Not to mention the other things the author makes mention of, including “geek camp and mountain top removal and the importance of respecting views different from your own and flashlight tag and almost-romance and motherlessness and book love and wonder and strange blue butterflies.”
Of course, the novel is about respecting the viewpoint of other people only when you are the one at odds with the author’s own viewpoint. As a result we have the “coalition” mother who calls the teacher of her daughter’s roommate for poisoning the children’s minds by taking them up on a helicopter ride to see the decapitation of a mountain. Evangelical students at the camp preach to others and then (we hear, not see) jump in bed with their “God Match.” Smart lesbian girl says its not fair gay marriage isn’t allowed and then meets nice Catholic girl who winds up a lesbian as well. Smart boy will go to church with his friend who invited him because “he might learn something” (fair enough) but hopes his friend will come to his church – the family farm – to learn something as well. I’m not arguing the sentiment in this last example, it’s the moral equivalence that bugs.
The good parts. The author’s love for Kentucky shines through. And I loved her portrayal – of all things – of the various parents in the novel. Most are flawed, but believably so. The parents in this novel – though seen through the eyes of the high school seniors – love their children fiercely. And maybe even smotheringly. But it’s love that motivates them, and their errors make them human – not villains. Well, excepting the coalition mama. There really isn’t any love for her.
There were some blue butterflies in the story, by the way. And they entered into the plot as easily and as wispily as they flutter on the front cover. Which is to say they were pretty but entirely without substance.
Yes, Gloria remembers the magic of a choir singing hallelujah and recognizes it again under the stars at Calvin’s farm, and the tiny foot of a baby, and somehow realizes that her best friend’s family has given her more proof of God that any pastor. Because, again, it’s the experiences of something and not the truth of them that matter here. The novel blinks at beauty and writes it all away.
There is this pervading belief in Breakfast Served Anytime that if we are just open to another’s point of view we will be enlightened. But that’s not how it works at all. Gradualism isn’t about taking on another’s point of view for the sake of reducing all sides of any topic to moral equivalence. Smart Boy Calvin says
“talking about God is like trying to catch a blue butterfly. To nail something beautiful like that to the wall” (172).
It sounds like a nice sentence fragment, but the implication here is off. We can’t nail God to the wall, but we can certainly pin down truth.
Surely, in a coming of age novel wherein the main character is on a quest to become who she is, blurring the truth does no one any favors. It is, afterall, only in Truth that the heart finds its rest. Augustine, of course, says it best.
My heart is restless until it rests in You.
What You Need to Know
- Role Models/Authority Figures – A wonderful father figure in the peripherals, some awesome mothers. Also, the opposite. All of them in the peripherals of the story.
- Violence – No violence
- Language – Yes. Byotch, Bulsh. And what is slang without the God as expletive in all forms “O God” and “Swear to God” only the characters in this novel differentiate between the two and only the latter is the problem. “bat$h!t crazy with a cherry on top”
- Sexual Content – Mentioned as having occurred with the girls’ “God Match.” And the book touches on homosexuality.
- Consumerism – Popular bands – at least they were popular when the book was written. Or at least they were popular “Emo” bands when the book was written. To be fair, there is plenty of Shakespeare, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, and James Joyce, too.
- Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – Some question as to whether the teacher of the main characters smokes pot. And the diner owner is hip to give the four students (and their teacher) “sloe gin fizzies”: to help with Chloe’s book report, of course.
- Religion – Oh Gosh, where do I start? See above for my general opinions on this. Interestingly, Gloria notices that the choir singing “hallelujah”
- Other –
- Neat stuff –