Angela’s Diner in a Philadelphia neighborhood was one of those places that seemed to invite the needy to sit a spell.

So when Gabby showed up there one day after being on the run and hiding from her past, Ms. Potts’s offer of a job as she stood there holding the “help wanted” sign felt like a welcome home.

Narrated in Gabby’s first person voice, we slowly come to know the diner and its specialty of the house: An Order of Coffee and Tears. A homey oasis in the midst of the stresses of life, the diner is reminiscent of a more kind and giving past, a marked contrast to the streamlined fast food places that are cropping up around them. Some of which have stolen their customers, or so it seems.

In some ways, the diner and the characters who inhabit it represent a time out of time. Insulated from the outside world and all of its flurry of activity, it is a place of serenity. However, much drama also plays out within its walls in unexpected ways. Not really marked by a period in time, it clearly reminds us of the kind of place where “everyone knows your name,” and where your friends have your back.

As the pages unfold, we learn about the secrets of those who enter, like Suzette, whose husband is a batterer; and like the aging detective who has one last case he’d like to close; or Ms. Potts herself, whose openness and welcoming greetings hide a terrible secret from twenty years ago. And, of course, we learn Gabby’s secrets.

I did enjoy the cozy feel of the place and its characters. However, some of the language was excessively dramatic at times, with “yelling” and “screaming” being the overused adjectives to describe some of the encounters. And the labeling of characters by descriptors rather than names—Brown, Red, Blonde—defeated the feeling of a friendly place filled with friends.

Otherwise, I enjoyed this quick read that did conjure up nostalgic moments for me. Recommended for those who do enjoy a trip down memory lane and into a more friendly world. 3.5 stars.

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