Review: The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers

book cover: the ballad of the sad cafe

Carson McCuller’s The Ballad of the Sad Café is my go-to book when coping with flight anxiety. It’s so absorbing that I can overlook minor turbulence while reading. I’ve read it six or seven times now with a year or two between readings. It’s phenomenal every time.

The story is simple: Miss Amelia is a jack-of-all-trades in a small, poor town. She handles a bit of everything and has become the wealthiest woman for miles. When a stranger claims to be her cousin, the town eagerly anticipates the sight of Miss Amelia tossing the con-man out on his ear. But she doesn’t. His presence effects some positive changes—she begins serving regular dinners at her store and becomes more generous—but Cousin Lymon’s slimy presence leaves everyone bracing for a fall. I first read this book for a college course and spent the next week picking it apart. I was less concerned with themes/symbolism than the question of why, WHY does Miss Amelia get so tangled with Cousin Lymon? read more