Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review #85: The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel

Title: The Recipe Club
Authors: Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Fiction
Price/Pages: $15.99/352
Paperback due out in stores today!
Book 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?

My Review:
The Recipe Club was a unique novel because it was told in letters. The letters between Lilly and Val start when they are very young and go into early adulthood. They range from simple and sweet to angry and emotional, always including a recipe in the end. Recipes with clever titles like "Lovelorn Lasagna" (perfect to soothe a broken heart) or "Worry Free Waffles". 
Towards the end of the book, the novel changes shape and the letters stop. It reads like a normal novel at that point. 
The hardcover edition is beautifully bound with great illustrations and pictures of the recipes. It takes on the feel of a scrapbook between these two women. 
Val and Lilly are two very different people. Both raised in somewhat dysfunctional families, Lily is dramatic and beautiful and lives to perform, like her mother. Val, more shy yet ambitious struggles to break our of her shell. 
Both personalities are very strong  in these letters. 
It takes some getting used to reading a novel of only letters, especially when it's fiction  and the end was a bit jarring when it stopped.  I find that just reading letters seems a bit forced and too dramatic. The letters need to tell the story and sometimes they seem to tell too much, making them seem unrealistic. I used to be quite a letter writer in my youth and had several pen pal relationships. I love the idea of expressing yourself in this form and having relations that just exist through letters. This is why I thought this book would appeal to me.
Rating: 3 stars/ 6 stars
Overall, it was a quick, relatively enjoyable read. I  think it will find an audience of foodies and women's fiction fans.  I enjoyed the recipes a lot and will definitely try some. My only real gripe was that the novel being just letters. I think I would have felt more invested with the characters and their story if it was written like a novel with a few letters included. 
The letters seemed a bit forced and dramatic and I didn't get a good sense of the women as a whole. You really seem to experience only what happens to them, which seems to mostly the bad.
Author's Website:
Happy Reading and as always , thanks for stopping by!
red headed book child


Teresa said...

I've been on the fence about this one. Thanks for the review.

Staci said...

I loved the letter aspect of it and not so much the recipes!! Isn't that funny how we both read the same book but enjoyed different things!!???

Gina said...

Really? It was told in letters? How intriguing...and I love the idea of the recipes in there too. Would be tempted to try some out along the way....
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one.....happy reading!

Marce said...

I would enjoy looking at the hardcover of this book but probably won't read it. great review.

BTW - I did link you, thanks for commenting.

Christine said...

Before I even read your review, I sighed over the cover art for this book. Oh how I adore it. Soothing and pretty...

After reading your review, I must say I'm entirely intrigued by this book now. Sorry it was less than stellar for you, but it sounds right up my alley!

Marie Cloutier said...

sometimes i like novels in letters but it probably depends on the style, like here where it seems really plot-driven. well, it sounds like a nice light read and i'm sure the recipes are great, too :-)

Anonymous said...

Another one I've been wanting to read.

Thanks for the review!