When Primrose Squarp’s parents disappear at sea, the town places her in the care of the ancient Miss Perfidy, contacts her uncle, and waits for her to mourn. When she doesn’t (Primrose is certain her parents are alive somewhere), they turn her over the guidance counselor, Miss Honeycutt, who is biding her time in Coal Harbor, B.C. until she can claim her inheritance back home in England. Miss Honeycutt, it turns out, is far more interested in Primrose’s Uncle Jack than she is in Primrose, and rather more interested in herself than in Uncle Jack. Uncle Jack proves to be a dear soul who quits the Navy and begins a development project in Coal Harbor in order to care for his niece. Unfortunately, the new project keeps him busy — and eventually lands him in the hospital — so Primrose is left largely on her own. Aside from a couple of minor accidents, Primrose manages pretty well on her own, making friends with Kate Bowzer, owner of The Girl on the Red Swing, where everything is served on a waffle. Kate offers no judgement on Primrose’s certainty regarding her parents’ safety, and helps Primrose to fill her mother’s notebook with recipes to share on her parents’ return (the recipes are included at the end of each chapter).
Primrose’s story is simple and sweet, if a little too exaggerated to feel quite real. Most of the characters are entertaining caricatures, playing out their roles on the periphery of Primrose’s life without experiencing any real development of their own. Still, Primrose’s faith in her parents, her friendship with Kate, and her resilience throughout the series of small traumas in Everything on a Waffle make for an appealing and memorable character. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, One Year in Coal Harbor.
Listen to Polly Horvath talk about the process of writing Everything on a Waffle.