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Eat Cake

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

With her suddenly unemployed husband, her elderly mother, and a petulant teenage daughter sharing space under her roof, Ruth has enough stress already. Then she gets the phone call saying her father, a bar-hopping piano player, has broken both wrists and needs someone to take care of him. Since dear old Dad and Ruth’s mother are sworn enemies, it looks like stormy territory ahead.

Ruth reverts to her favorite stress-reduction technique, visualizing herself sitting in the warm, safe haven in the center of a bundt cake. She feels protected there, open to the universe but safe from it. Ruth’s husband Sam, a former hospital administrator, thinks he needs a career change and dreams of buying old sailboats, refurbishing them, and selling them for profit. Jarred by the risk-taking and potential for financial ruin, Ruth wonders if she could launch a mid-life career as a cake baker. She bakes all the time anyway, why not do it for profit?

The whole family gets into the act. Daughter Camille makes business cards that say “Eat Cake”, and thus a name is chosen. Ruth’s father contacts old cronies in fine restaurant service and offers them samples. Ruth’s mother sews elaborate presentation boxes for the cakes. Even Sam is enlisted into service on the production end. When Ruth loses the nerve to approach businesses to buy her cakes, Camille steps in, asking for double the price her mother had contemplated. Business takes off, and family happiness ensues.