Amy Bloom's Love is Not a Pie: A Review

One Story Magazine recently listed their top ten favorite short stories, along with an additional twenty-six stories to flush out the “long list.” Amy Bloom's Love is Not a Pie made the long list. Wow! Amy Bloom’s Love is Not a Pie has been the best surprise story of my summer reading project. I had not read Amy Bloom until I read Silver Water earlier for this project. That was an excellent read but I thought this story was even better. It starts:

In the middle of the eulogy at my mother’s boring and heart-breaking funeral, I began to think about calling off the wedding.

What a packed sentence! The narrator is Ellen and as she sits at the service she has the feeling her mother would not want her to marry them man she is engaged to. After the funeral, Ellen, her sister Lizzie and their father return to the house to entertain friends. When Mr. DeCuervo enters the room, their father goes over and hugs this man “in a passionate, musicless waltz.”

My sister and I sat down on the couch, pressed against each other, watching our father cry all over his friend, our mother’s lover.

The bulk of the story is then a remembrance of vacations on a lake when Ellen was a kid. Bloom vividly describes the joys and thrills of spending summers running around in the woods and swimming. Mr. DeCuervo and his daughter would often come stay for part of the vacation at the cabin. Many times, Mrs. DeCuervo was away tending to some family business. Ellen recalls once waking up and going downstairs to find her mother and Mr. DeCuervo in an embrace. Another time, she woke up with stomach cramps and went to wake her parents.

I pushed open the creaky door and saw my mother spooned up against my father’s back, as she always was, and Mr. DeCuervo spooned up against her, his arm over the covers, his other hand resting on the top her her head.

After the mourners have left the house, the father and Mr DeCuervo sit in the living room and drink while Ellen and her sister Lizzie sit in the kitchen. Lizzie reveals that while their mother was sick, Mr. DeCuervo called every day. Lizzie explains how she was confused about their relationship and asked her mother directly about it. Her mother said, “Honey, nobody loves me more than Bolivar.”

Lizzie goes on to explain that the next day, her mother told her a story about how Mr. DeCuervo had moved and replanted some apple trees that were in bloom when they first met. The first time Mr. DeCuervo met their father, they drank together and watched soccer. The mother then said:

And when the two of them are in the room together and you two girls are with us, I know that I am living in a state of grace.

In what is truly a remarkable passage, the mother explains to Lizzie how she loves both the men differently. “Love is not a pie, honey.” After Lizzie explains the conversation, Ellen tells her sister about the sightings she had when she was a kid.

Both men come into the kitchen and compliment the daughters on how beautiful they are, how they each resemble their mother in different ways.

Alone in the kitchen, Ellen thinks about how she can describe this situation to her fiance. She wonders how he would react to this story of her mother and her lover.

I knew I couldn’t tell him the rest and that I couldn’t marry a man I couldn’t tell this story too.

Love is Not a Pie is an excellent story that inverts the traditional beliefs of love and marriage in a daring and profound way. It was truly a pleasure to read and reflect upon.