October 15, 2009
The Recipe Club
The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel
Fiction - Epistolary
2009 Polhemus Press
Finished on 10/4/09
Rating: 3/5 (So-So)
ARC from FSB Associates
Lilly and Val are lifelong friends, united as much by their differences as by their similarities. Lilly, dramatic and confident, lives in the shadow of her beautiful, wayward mother and craves the attention of her distant, disapproving father. Val, shy and idealistic—and surprisingly ambitious—struggles with her desire to break free from her demanding housebound mother and a father whose dreams never seem to come true.
In childhood, “LillyPad” and “Valpal” vow to form an exclusive two-person club. Throughout the decades they write intimate letters in which they share hopes, fears, deepest secrets—and recipes, from Lilly’s “Lovelorn Lasagna” to Valerie’s “Forgiveness Tapenade.” Readers can cook along as the girls travel through time, facing the challenges of independence; the joys and heartbreaks of first love; and the emotional complexities of family relationships, identity, mortality, and goals deferred.
But no matter what different paths they take or what misunderstandings threaten to break them apart, Lilly and Val always find their way back together through their Recipe Club . . . until the fateful day when an act of kindness becomes an unforgivable betrayal.
Now, decades later, while trying to recapture the trust they’ve lost, Lilly and Val reunite once more—only to uncover a shocking secret. Will it destroy their friendship, or bring them ever closer?
I finished this epistolary novel over a week ago and I'm still struggling with my review. I love to cook and I own dozens of cookbooks. I also love getting long, chatty letters in the mail (not that that's happened in forever!) and enjoy epistolary works. So you'd think this book would've been a big hit with me. Meh, not so much. The characters rubbed me the wrong way, perhaps just a little too clichéd or one-dimensional. Their story (which begins in 2000, flashes back to 1964-1973, and wraps up between 2002-2003) just barely held my interest and if it weren't such a quick read, I probably would have given up. I only spotted a few recipes that might be worthwhile (Peanut Butter Blondie Bars, Chocolate-Dipped Heart Cookies, and Lovelorn Lasagna), but to be fair, I should note that unlike the published book, the ARC doesn't include photographs of any of the dishes. That's a big selling point for this cook and I'll be sure to check out the published copy to see if there are any other tempting recipes.
About the Authors
Andrea Israel is a producer/writer for ABC’s Focus Earth. She was a producer/writer on Anderson Cooper 360, Dateline, and Good Morning America (which garnered her an Emmy Award). Her story In Donald’s Eyes was recently optioned for a film. Ms. Israel is the author of Taking Tea. Her writing has appeared in many publications.
Nancy Garfinkel is co-author of The Wine Lover’s Guide to the Wine Country: The Best of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino (Chronicle Books, 2005). A creative strategist, design consultant, writer, and editor for magazine, corporate, and non-profit clients, she has won a host of graphic arts and editorial merit awards. She has written extensively about food and graphic arts.