Mary Flinn's A Girl Like That

In A Girl Like That, author Mary Flinn creates the character of Elle McLarin, who after a tough childhood, never knowing her father and abandoned by her mother, spent one year in jail. While a romance, this novel is also a motivational and inspirational story about mistakes and second chances, and as the author said, about Elle trying to “reinvent” herself.

 

The difficulties of ex-felons reestablishing themselves is a main part of the story line. Mary told me, “Elle knows too well the effects of prejudice on her life. Despite her good looks and talent for acting, she is rarely able to experience kindness from her peers or their families…. Elle doesn’t understand how to trust others and comes to expect disappointment at every turn.”  She has developed the lack of self-esteem of so many ex-felons. “I never heard the words I love you from anyone other than Granny.…”

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Valle Crucis in North Carolina was home for Elle but a very difficult place for her to live because of her past and the people in it who still live there and know about her past. It was simply too painful for her to stay there. Mary shared with me, “As a poor mountain girl with limited experiences, it’s a real stretch for Elle to leave the only home she’s known so she takes a big chance leaving. In Wilmington, she can start over with a clean slate.”

 

Elle gave birth to her son, Joey, in prison. She went to live with her grandmother, who helped her raise Joey. Elle worked hard, got a degree in pastry and baking arts and when her grandmother died and left her money, Elle left Valle Crucis for coastal Wilmington (NC), buys a bakery, makes her new business a success and finds new friends. She leaves her old life behind.

 

Finding a young boy who had been kidnapped brings her to the national news. Suddenly, everyone knows about her past, i.e. a single mother with a prison record. Elle can never forgive herself for her mistakes.

 

Through her baking and her contact with customers, Elle learns that others do forgive her and that her life has worth. “Somehow the ritual of decorating a cake has calmed me down, that and the sweet smells of cakes baking….Life isn’t so bad today. I just might live.”

 

Working with her hands and creating beautiful pastries, cakes, cupcakes heals her.

“This total absorption in what I’m doing is soothing for me, too, making me forget about all my past transgression, and reminding me that I am rehabilitated and decent, worthy to have this place and to make a go of it here, on my own.”

 

Trusting herself is a long journey that brings her closer to her son and to love in her life. Elle thinks, “There is a serenity, I realize in the ritual of everyday tasks, especially when they are done well and with love or whatever passion is put in. Washing dishes, stirring batter, counting change, it’s all the same; the work of a life is made up of all these simple actions, even the contented, weary sigh at the end of a day. It is all good. It is all worth it. It is me.”

 

Elle’s bakers make a dessert in her honor called “Drops of Sunshine.” Mary Flinn thought of these as a lemon or key lime pie flavor. “My husband’s favorite dessert (and mine too) is Key Lime Pie.” In honor of Elle and Mary, here is a great recipe for Key Lime Pie Mini. This would be a hit at Bake My Day, Elle's bakery, and it will be at your home too!

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Eat, Read and Dream, my cookbook with Geri Clouston, inspired by my Foodie Lit columns is available on Aug. 22 on Amazon, Book Baby, and Book Depository. Preorder now!  So excited to share with you!

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