Phillip, Sarah, Kaitlyn, Caleb, Maxine, Grant, Melanie and Josh grew up in a small town where they spent their high school years together as an inseparable clique. But high school has ended, and they are all living their own “grown up” lives, each under the impression that their group has basically come to an end. When Phillip dies in a hit and run accident, Kaitlyn summons the others to all come back home, forcing a reunion that no one is particularly interested in partaking in.
Coffee at Little Angels follows how each character deals with the death of a childhood friend while at the same time dealing with their own ignored demons after years of separation. Events unfold as the group tries to rekindle the friendship they once shared to honour the memory of a friend they will never see again.
Not surprisingly, Coffee at Little Angels is a read tinged with emotion. Seven past friends are brought together again because of the death of an eighth member in their circle, but I found the story to be far more than dealing with the death itself, instead analysing life and friendships as one is wont to do when such a tragedy shakes them.
There are few stories I’ve read where the narrative is told from so many different perspectives, each character taking turns to share the story in first person, and usually I find it a nuisance to follow each change. In CALA, the character’s P.O.V.s don’t herald a new chapter; instead you’re being bounced back and forth between them all during one chapter, which are set out in four days. At first, like I find with any story involving more than a certain number of characters, having so many personalities to follow is on the overwhelming side. I think Larter has a way of writing her characters to be both believable and enjoyable to the point of emotionally roping you in, offering very distinct personalities, and this helps to alleviate any confusion when it comes to going from P.O.V. to P.O.V.
The first P.O.V. we’re introduced to is Phil’s, the friend who passes away, and his first line “I went jogging on the morning that I died.” There are many reasons why that first line is a punch in the face of sorts. For one it is enough to pique a reader’s curiosity. Two, and this is the one I find somewhat dicey, is because it makes the reader question what is going on in relation to a past tense narration by a dead person.
When I begin reading a story with the above happening I feel dubious because in order to make a story believable, no matter how fantastical it may be, everything needs to fit into the world somehow. Making a reader question uncertain elements and leaving them unexplained can, in my mind, be distracting and off-putting. At first I felt that dubious feeling, but I decided to give it a shot seeing as we don’t know where the story is going to go do we? Apart from being a depressing character, Phil’s internal speculation roped me in and before we know it he leaves the picture, in a sense.
I don’t know what was going on there with Phil’s P.O.V., I put it down to him being a ghost, but then that opens up all sorts of other questions if I think about it too much. Luckily the story is taken up more by the other characters, their issues between each other that are yet to be resolved after so many years, and trying to understand their grief or what they perceive as a lack thereof.
I found myself enjoying quite a few of the characters, especially Maxine, Grant, and Caleb. They offer a much needed sense of humour to cope with the narrow minded and arrogant world view of Melanie’s (I swear she deserves a good dose of public humiliation) and Maxine’s hard edge counteracts the flights of fancy, especially when certain parties begin to unravel psychologically.
Coffee at Little Angels is a very character driven story, and while it appears short and sweet at 138 pages in length, it is not a story to plough through, rather to contemplate as well as having plenty of personalities for a reader to identify with.