Tall Pine, Minnesota has a lot to recommend it: quirky townsfolk who share traits that can be defined as folksy, friendly, nosy, and any number of other adjectives. But what really connects the residents of this town near the Canadian border is their unique gathering place known as the Cup O’Delight Café, made famous for its delicious coffee made with a secret blend known only to its owner, Lee O’Leary.
We meet many of the residents in the opening pages, as they enter the café and order breakfast or lunch, or saunter in for polka night. Residents like Fenny Ness, who is “discovered” by a Hollywood producer, and who eventually stars in a movie made right in Tall Pine called “Ike and Inga.” Mary is known for her bad poetry and her many annoying ways, while Pete is the proprietor of the Shoe Shack and has his special place at the counter every day.
When the movie is shot in their little town, the lives of the residents will change forever. Some changes will include love alliances sparked during that time. What will draw Fenny to a recent newcomer in town known as Big Bill, and what will his presence in town do to the friendship between Fenny and Lee? How will the various comings and goings of the residents as they try to recover after a tragic event in the café ultimately affect the character of the town? And how will things finally settle into some kind of normalcy again?
Filled with colorful characters, The Tall Pine Polka (Ballantine Reader’s Circle) is reminiscent of other such tomes that spotlight a town as if it, too, is a character in the drama. Without the backdrop of Tall Pine, none of the characters would be nearly as interesting. And without the Hollywood presence, the daily lives of the characters might seem intriguing and quirky for awhile, but they would lack that special something. I thought the book went on too long and included too many unnecessary details of the movie-making process. Otherwise, it was pleasant, warm, and even memorable. Four stars.