|Published in 1996|
Queenie is the youngest Pickle and yearns for a close friend her own age in the Pickle Club. When newcomer and newlywed Rita Ritter joins the Pickles, Queenie is anxious to become best friends with her. Rita is friendly and nice, but very different from the farm wives of Kansas. Rita is a city girl and aspires to be a successful news reporter. In fact, Rita is determined to write her best news story ever that will land her a job at a major city newspaper and essentially be her ticket out of farm country. When the bones of one of the Pickle's missing husband is found in a shallow roadside grave, Rita believes solving the mystery of his murder will be her lucky break. She enlists help from Queenie who is all too eager to spend time with her new best friend, even when their investigating leads them to trouble and possibly heartache as secrets between Pickle members are unearthed.
The Persian Pickle Club is a charming Depression-era story that encompasses a wide range of important women's topics such as friendship, marriage, financial hardships, charity, death, widowhood and even infertility. The author adeptly draws the reader in to the hardships of this time and the lives of the families trying to survive with their dignity intact. A few scenes packed more emotional punch than I expected, and despite the fact that there is a murder mystery, the story is warm and uplifting.
For all it's strengths, however, I did feel the book could have been more for a few reasons. For one, the story started out rather slow. Considering the book is barely two hundred pages, I expected the story to be strong and engaging from start, not start to pick up speed and interest at the halfway mark. Perhaps contributing to the feeling of a slow start is the fact that there are so many characters in the story, most of them Pickles who are introduced at the same time, making it difficult to keep track of who was who. I tried to just read on, thinking I'd figure everyone out as I went along, but I still found myself flipping back to the early chapters to remind myself who was who. I think this was especially important for me to keep straight because the women were of different ages and stages of their lives--for example, I found it important to keep straight who was older, younger, related to whom, had children or not, were married, widowed, etc.--because these attributes strongly established their "place" within the community, their hardships and their relationships with each other. Eventually I got it, but I wish I didn't have to work as hard getting it straight. Also, although I enjoyed the murder mystery aspect of the story while I was reading the book and how it inevitably intertwined the lives of the Pickles together, when I closed the book I questioned its plausibility.
This is one of those cases for which I wish readers could give half stars for their ratings on goodreads. I rated The Persian Pickle Club three stars on goodreads, but would have given it three and a half if I could have.