Breakfast at Sadie’s
by Lee Weatherly
Laurel Leaf/Random House (April 2008)
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
“It’s just not good enough, Sadie; you need to apply yourself more.” Mum frowned as she worked our industrial iron, pressing the creases out of a sheet. The smell of warm cotton filled the room. “It’s like you don’t even try.”
Thanks so much for that insight, Mum. I took the sheet from her as she pulled it out, and started folding. The hot linen baked my arms.
“Sadie, answer me!” Hiss, hiss. Stream rose up, flushing her face and curling her short brown hair.
“I do try,” I said in a monotone.
“Well, you could certainly fool me.” Mum yanked a bit of duvet cover taut as she closed the iron. Her hand slipped while she was doing it, so that when she opened the iron again there was a massive crease. She huffed out a sigh, and grabbed the spray-bottle of water.
—Breakfast at Sadie’s by Lee Weatherly, p. 1.
Breakfast at Sadie’s was so good that I couldn’t put it down; I was late for a meeting because I didn’t want to stop reading–and I hate being late. I didn’t want the book to ever end–that’s how good this book is. There wasn’t a mistep in it; nothing pulled me out of the wonderful world Weatherly created. I think it is Weatherly’s best book so far, and it is one of my new favorite books. It’s a real feel-good read.
Fourteen-year-old Sadie struggles in school, and is always being told by her mother that she’s lazy or not working hard enough when she brings home bad grades. When she comes home, she helps out at the bed and breakfast where they live, though she’d rather be doing something else. Then her mom gets ill–temporarily paralyzed–and has to stay in the hospital for about three months. Sadie is left with her irresponsible, immature aunt to run the B & B. But her aunt leaves Sadie all alone–and suddenly Sadie is faced with having to run the B & B herself, and not let any adults find out, in case they tell her mom (which might make her more sick), or put Sadie in care. Sadie struggles to keep everything together–and then she starts to find out that she’s good at running the B & B–when it doesn’t make her late for school. She also finds some friends in places she didn’t expect–and discovers that she might not be stupid, after all.
Weatherly (Missing Abby, Child X) creates a strong, believable voice in Sadie, a sympathizable and resourceful hero who struggles with self-confidence but wins out in the end. Her actions are all beleivable, especially with the reasons Weatherly has laid out in the plot. All of the characters feel beleivable and unique, which adds to the richness of the story. The text is beautifully written; Weatherly nicely sprinkles in bits of backstory, sensory detail, and vivid analogies, and mixes up dialogue with everyday actions, helping us to both see and hear the characters. Events build perfectly on each other, with characters who become involved placed early in the book, making us believe in them. Weatherly deftly shows characters’ emotions through their actions and body language, getting the reader involved, and creates great tension with just the right amount of positive events. Weatherly has created a heartwarming and uplifting book.
Sadie is an instantly likable and sympathizable character. Her mother goes at her for not getting good enough grades and not trying hard enough, though Sadie works very hard–something many readers will be able to relate to (being criticized by a parent). Sadie is good natured, has a great sense of humor, and is clearly intelligent, though she thinks she isn’t. She’s an incredibly hard worker, and deals with circumstances that would be hard for most anyone. Some readers might get convinced, along with Sadie, that she’s not very smart (since she doesn’t do well at school), so Weatherly uses a great technique to show us otherwise–showing us through other characters’ dialogue that Sadie is smart and resourceful. This works well, the reader realizing along with Sadie just how intelligent she is. Weatherly also shows us how intelligent Sadie is through some of the changes she makes to the B & B herself.
Sadie finds many unexpected allies that help and protect her, and those characters work to bring a happy, uplifting feeling to what could have been a painful book. The characters feel rounded and full, just like Sadie.
Sadie changes and grows through the book, moving from thinking that she’s stupid because she can’t get good grades but works really hard at it; letting her “friends” put her down and basically call her stupid; and hating working at her Mom’s B & B, to learning that she’s intelligent and resourceful, and just needs the space to do schoolwork without pressure; finding new friends who really appreciate and like her for her, and see how intelligent she is; and enjoying running the B & B on her own, learning that she can be successful at something that others might find hard to do. She also grows in confidence and skills, and learns to see one of her teachers as a person, not just a dreaded teacher.
Sadie’s mom also changes, becoming wiser and kinder. I believed the explanation, though would have liked to see the transition just a little more. Still, the story is firmly Sadie’s.
Sadie’s Aunt Leona is an incredibly self-absorbed, immature, selfish woman, and it’s easy to dislike her and get angry at the way she treats Sadie. Her actions build to a small crisis, which feels believable, based on her previous actions. Thankfully, she doesn’t remain a big part of the book, and some intervention near the end (in the form of a threat from another adult) helps her change and become responsible. Aunt Leona’s actions set in motion a course of events that help Sadie really succeed, which is a nice twist. We also see through contrast just how mature, resourceful, and skilled Sadie is.
There were only two minor details that I didn’t fully believe, that hardly seem worth mentioning–I wasn’t sure that Sadie could copy answers from someone else’s paper in the dark, and I didn’t see how Sadie could collect cash for the B & B without it seeming like she was evading tax or involved in something shady. But those were such tiny things; I was fully absorbed in and enjoyed Sadie’s world.
I enjoyed how Sadie was so good at the B & B business, and couldn’t see how hard it was for others (though we, the readers, could see this). I also loved the revelations, the truth finally coming out to quite a number of people, who either helped or showed Sadie that she really was remarkable. This worked especially well because Sadie fought so hard to keep the truth a secret.
Breakfast at Sadie’s is one of those books that feeds your soul, lifts you up, and fills you with good feeling and hope. Run and get yourself a copy; you won’t regret it.
(If you haven’t read her other books, I suggest you check them out. Missing Abby is also wonderful.)