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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





Product Description:

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 clich├ęd 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.

19 comments:

  1. Aw, too bad about the lack of pictures in the ARC. I hate it when that happens. I'm actually wishing I had a finished copy of The Maze Runner, just because I so love the cover.

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  2. Aw, that's too bad. I had hoped it would be good, but you didn't love it I don't know that I would either.

    It's a fantastic cover though.

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  3. Too bad this one wasn't a 5 star book. I really like epistolary novels but the whole cooking bit wouldn't do it for me at all. So I think I'll probably pass on this one.

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  4. Nancy - I know. And I meant to sit down with the book today at work, but we were pretty busy (always a good thing!) and I got distracted by the time I took my lunch. Maybe I'll remember on Monday. I really want to see what some of the recipes wind up looking like after they've been prepared.

    Sassymonkey - Yeah and I feel bad because the book really appealed to me and I was so excited to get an ARC from Caitlin at FSB. It is a cool cover, isn't it?

    Iliana - So you don't like to cook? I think maybe that's why this book fell short for me. It really wasn't about cooking. It was more about their lives together as young women and really not so much about the food. The commentary about the recipes was almost an aside or afterthought. Hmmm. I think I just figured out my disappointment! Thanks!

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  5. I so appreciate honest reviews like this. I have this one to read as well, and we can compare reviews. Sorry it was just so so for you.

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  6. Now I need to check out my copy and see if there are pictures. I had high hopes for this one but I'm still going in with an open and optimistic mindset!!

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  7. Well, darn. I added this to my list, cause I love a good foodie book. I guess not.

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  8. Diane - Thanks. I'll be interested in your opinion once you've finished. It may be that I went into this read expecting something more about the actual cooking and sharing of foodie-type stuff rather than a story about two young girls growing up in the 60s.


    Staci - I'm glad you'll go ahead and give it a try. It may wind up being a big hit for you. I had hoped for more about the food & cooking, so therein lies my disappointment.

    Pam - Well... ya never know. I'd be more than happy to send you my copy, if you still want to give it a try. LMK.

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  9. Were you drawn by the book's cover? That single egg reminds me of Berg's recent book sans bird. I'll be checking your cooking blog to see if you try any of those recipes. Too bad about the pictures.

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  10. Booklogged - You know, I don't remember if I even knew what the cover looked like when the publicist sent me the query letter. It is pretty attractive, isn't it? And you're right. It does look a bit like Berg's without the bird. Did you get a copy? I'd be happy to send you mine, if you'd like.

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  11. It's always disappointing when a book doesn't measure up. I prefer pictures in a cook book too. I may still try this one, though. I'll see if my library has it.

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  12. Holly - Let me know if you try any of these recipes. I always enjoy good recommendations, as does my husband. ;)

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  13. Sharon2:47 PM

    I just finished this book. I picked it up after seeing the ad for it in The Book Page. Like you, if it hadn't been a quick read, I would have given up on it. To be honest, I felt cheated. The 26-year gap was the most interesting part of their lives. And upon reflection, I was really irritated that I missed out on at least some of those years.

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  14. Sharon - I don't know if I felt cheated, but I certainly felt letdown. This book had so much potential, but it really didn't live up to my expectations.

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  15. I'm about halfway through this, and I'm pretty meh right now, too. I had really been looking forward to this one, too!! :(

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  16. Jill - I think I would have enjoyed it more if it focused more on the characters' adult lives and less on their childhoods. Overall, it was pretty disappointing.

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  17. Hi Les. I clicked over here to your blog from Heather's review of this book on her blog, The Capricious Reader. I've been reading some very similar so-so reviews for this book in the last couple of weeks. The premise sounds so endearing. I'm keeping a look out for it at my library and I think I'm going to give it a try.

    On a separate topic, I see on your sidebar that you're reading Ride Your Way Lean by Selene Yeager. How is it? I am a cross trainer by nature, but have been riding for a little over a year now and really love it. I've also been working my way to a leaner me, so I'm curious if this book has some great training regimes in it. I'd love your opinion!

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  18. I just realized this post is already over a year old! When I clicked over, I skimmed the date and didn't notice the 2009. Oops!

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  19. Christine - No worries. I enjoy getting comments no matter how old the post is! I'm glad you stopped by after visiting Heather's blog.

    As far as Ride Your Way Lean, I'm reading it very slowly. I'll probably get a review posted at the end of the year, at the rate I'm going! So far it's pretty good, especially since I'm fairly new to serious biking. I haven't tried any of the training routines yet, but I've been reading with a highlighter in hand, if that tells you anything. Stay tuned!

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