Martini Afternoons
by Beverly Fortenberry

"Everyone sits on their front porches or back patios and fans themselves. They watch the fireflies and listen to the crickets singing in the trees. It is peaceful, hometown America."

Bexley, Indiana, is a quaint town in the midst of a housing transformation. Large, new homes are under development, replacing the worn charm of bungalows and cottages. Edi Harris has lived in Bexley since 1939. Now widowed, she longs for the companionship she once had with family and friends, sharing pleasant conversation over a nice martini. Determined to ease her loneliness, she implements “sample social hours” into her afternoons by calling on local contractors for estimates on home improvement projects and presenting them with a refreshing cocktail during their visits. When her long-time friend Elli comes to stay with her, the two continue with Edi’s current pastime. As the contractors begin inquiring about establishing a date for work to commence, they fear they may have taken their well-intended entertainment too far. They quickly find a solution to ending their charade when the community’s leading socialites approach Edi about converting her house into a museum to recognize Bexley’s efforts on the home front during WWII.

While the story launches with a tale of isolation and loss, the author expands the scope of the novel by introducing a variety of subjects for the characters to navigate. Readers can easily create a visual of the charming town portrayed by picturesque descriptions of small businesses lining quiet streets, welcoming churches, and working families with energetic children. The primary theme of a changing economic landscape is enhanced by the characters’ struggles to embrace improvements while also honoring sacrifices and traditions of the past. A secondary theme of the importance of community is laced throughout the plot of this light-hearted story. This concept is showcased by the characters’ determination to work together for the common good of the town, unifying its residents and inspiring others to build upon the solid foundation of kinship.

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