I was recently in Barnes and Noble. When I was browsing the bargain section, I found this lovely little novel,
The Recipe Club
by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel.
At first, I was primarily drawn to the beautiful cover. The best of 1970’s hues in kitchenware, the book simply looked beautiful. Then, picking it up and reading the back cover, I read this: “Loyalty, loss, and the ties that bind: These are the ingredients of
The Recipe Club
, a ‘novel cookbook’ that combines an authentic story of friendship with more than eighty delicious recipes.”
Now, for those of you who don’t know me, you might not be aware that I’m completely addicted to cookbooks and food-related stories. So, obviously, I had to pick up a copy.
I have to admit that, at first, I was a little disappointed in this novel. The first few pages were not particularly alluring or well written. But, as I persevered, I got hooked on the story of these two very different little girls who were best friends and rivals all at once, whose relationship revolved around food, and who were the only members of the Recipe Club and therefore, each letter that the girls wrote the other included a recipe (all of which sound delicious, by the way).
The basic plot is that Lilly and Val have been lifelong friends. The novel begins with an adult Val writing an email to adult Lilly to tell her that her mother, who loved Lilly as well as her own daughter, has died. The reader quickly learns that these two women, who the back cover asserts as lifelong friends, haven’t spoken in years. The story continues a bit, then stops after another fight. Then, the book takes us back to the 60’s when, as children, their relationship grew mostly through writing letters after Val’s family moved to another part of New York City, away from Lilly and her own family.
The writing is not masterful, but the story is good and the characters intriguing. I have to admit that before I even got five pages into the older letters, I turned the pages to the back section that took up the modern day again to find out if my hunch about a major plot twist was right. It was. So, I’m guessing most readers anticipate the same plot twist I did. It was, however, a good one.
One thing that makes this book stand out against other similar fiction made of letters is that there are two authors, and therefore the letters have a distinct feel to them that makes the character more real.
So, while the writing style is less than stellar (acceptable, given that both authors are cookbook writers who have never done fiction before), I love the characters. I love the story, too, and the aforementioned plot twist is one that explores much about childhood, friendship, and the role that secrets can often play in families. Mental illness, teenage rebellion, and loyalty are other themes that are explored.
While I don’t think this book could be seen as life changing, I do think it is a decent book and a good read. I give it three stars. If you like food literature or books about long enduring friendship, check this out (and if you’re near a Barnes and Noble, you might be able to pick up a copy for $5!).