Picks and Pans Review: World of Pies

updated 08/14/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/14/2000 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Karen Stolz

There's no mistaking Roxanne Milner for a city girl. The narrator of this slim charming novel calls Annette, Texas—her provincial home—"a town small enough to know everybody, big enough to pretend we didn't when we needed."

Not that she ever has that need. In the sunny Annette quaintly sketched here by first-time author Stolz (herself a small-town native), Roxanne's youth in the elsewhere turbulent late '60s and '70s is marked by a mundane succession of best friends, beaux and chocolate milk shakes at Doreen's Drugstore. Mind you, some turmoil does come to town: When Roxanne is 15, her mother has an unplanned baby and her beloved first cousin Tommy returns from the Vietnam War a drug addict, having lost both an arm and his direction in life.

But all the bumps on that dusty country road get smoothed over with generous helpings of homemade desserts—hence the title of the book, which laces its chapters with mouthwatering recipes. And though Roxanne expresses a curiosity about life beyond Annette—she takes a job at a motel in the hopes of meeting people who "would know the world" and even goes away to college—she doesn't stay away long. She returns to raise her daughter, surrounded by family and, of course, pies. It gives new meaning to the phrase "Home, sweet home." (Hyperion, $18.95)

Bottom Line: Lighter than meringue

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