Not my collectible

Cookbook Collector
Allegra Goodman

So I like to cook. I love to eat. I read cookbooks for fun. And the icing on the cake? NPR commentator Maureen Corrigan called author Allegra Goodman an “updated Jane Austen” and the novel a contemporary take on Sense and Sensibility. And while the basics are there (two sisters blind to love and misguided in their life’s work) that’s about where the similarities end.

I have little good to say about the novel. The plot was often unbelievable, the characters caricatures, the conflict a mish-mash of every modern social cliche imaginable. Silicon Valley start-up? Check. Brat pack millionaire entrepreneurs? Check. Green movement tree huggers (literally)? Check. Religious mysticism? Check. A lesbian child custody battle? Check. SEPTEMBER 11, for goshsakes?! Now that was just maudlin pandering.

The story centers on two sisters, Emily–the software entrepreneur– and Jess–the grad-student-cum-book store clerk. Emily has it all, or does she? Jess is adrift and seeking purpose and stability. (See what I mean about cliches?) Both women evolve and flip their lives–see paragraph 2 for inciting devices. And I wanted this cookbook collector … who didn’t show up until nearly one-third of the way through the novel. To be sure, the cookbook collector could  have referred to Jess’ employer, rare bookstore owner George. Or it could have been the mysterious woman who wanted him to appraise her uncle’s collection. Or it could even have been the uncle himself, an enigmatic college professor who littered his collection of rare cookbooks with sensuous line drawings of his unknown love. But suffice it to say, although the cookbooks may have played a part in Jess’ rebirth, this book was not about a cookbook collection.

So–a pretty disdainful take on a mediocre book. Thank goodness for the Kindle app and the fact that I won’t have this book cluttering my shelves. But … I read the whole thing. Page one to whatever. And, in the end, I guess that says something.

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