From the time she was a young girl, Portia Cuthcart loved cooking with her grandmother. Her grandmother had a special touch, knowing exactly what to cFrom the time she was a young girl, Portia Cuthcart loved cooking with her grandmother. Her grandmother had a special touch, knowing exactly what to cook to make someone feel good before they even know that they needed it. Portia inherited that unique talent.
Portia was happy living in Texas with her husband, a politician, until the day she discovered her was sleeping with her best friend. Distraught, divorced and with no money, she headed to New York City to the garden apartment her aunt left her.
Her sisters Cordelia and Olivia lived in New York as well, so Portia had a support system there. She discovered that the man who bought out Cordelia's and Olivia's apartments in her aunt's building also wanted to buy hers, but she did not want to sell.
Gabriel is a Wall Street big money man, a widower with a two daughters. He is brooding and pushy and sexy, and he wants Portia to sell him her apartment, which Portia refuses to do. You can probably guess where this is heading.
Running low on funds, Portia decides to open a restaurant with her sisters called The Glass Kitchen. Portia works her food magic, cooking dishes that come to her. She begins by selling them out of her garden apartment home, until the health department shuts her down.
Gabriel hires Portia to cook for his family, and she becomes close to his younger daughter Ariel, who misses her mother terribly and was in the car when her mother had the fatal car accident. Ariel is looking for answers to questions about her mother.
The descriptions of food in The Glass Kitchen will drive you into your own kitchen to recreate the recipes that Lee has helpfully put in the end of the book. You can create an entire six course meal with the recipes for Crab and Sweet Corn Chowder and Fried Chicken with Sweet Jalapeno Mustard, making this a good book for a book club meal.
The Glass Kitchen has some very hot sex scenes, great descriptions of food, a terrific sister relationship and some memorable characters (the elderly neighbor couple were my favorite). It's a wonderful book to while away a Sunday afternoon and then create a delicious Sunday dinner. (And the cover art is absolutely irresistible.) ...more
Julia Pandl is the youngest of nine children born to George and Teresa Pandl. Her dad owned a restaurant in Milwaukee, and every Sunday each child wasJulia Pandl is the youngest of nine children born to George and Teresa Pandl. Her dad owned a restaurant in Milwaukee, and every Sunday each child was expected to work the famous Sunday brunch. She recounts this life in Memoir of the Sunday Brunch.
I have to tell you how much I loved this book! You not only get an insider's look at what a tough life the restaurant business is, you also get a wonderful, honest look at life in a big Catholic Midwestern family, and Julia's relationship with her tough, loving father is so beautifully written it will make you want to give your own dad a hug.
George not only loved food, family and the church, he was a voracious reader. He even read during mass, though they were always books with a religious theme, to be fair. He was a huge presence in his family's life, and Julia loved him very much, even though he was always trying to feed food to his family that was leftover from the restaurant- as in leftover from months and years ago.
When she was fourteen, she asked if she could drive them to the restaurant, and George let her drive a little bit further each week, until soon she was driving them all the way. These rides cemented their close, loving relationship.
Working the brunch was not easy. Julia's first job was picking up trash in the parking lot. Next she moved onto peeling shrimp, and soon her job was making the pancakes for the line. As someone who owned a fast food restaurant, this section of the book had a special appeal for me.
As a Catholic, I also enjoyed reading about how the Pandl's faith informed their life. Terry had religious statues, rosaries and funeral cards all over the house. Terry is not a big part of the book until she loses a foot to diabetes. Julia's relationship with her mother seems to deepen as she helps to care for her aging parents.
The end of the book is very moving. Julia and her siblings must deal with her parents' serious illnesses, and these last few chapters are something that will make everyone reflect upon their own parents, as this is something that most of us will face at some point in our lives.
There is so much to love here in Memoir of the Sunday Brunch. Julia Pandl writes from the heart; with all the fun, the joy, the fighting, the hard work, the love, and the sorrow that living in a big family brings. This is one of my favorite book of this year, and it makes me appreciate my family even more. ...more
What I Had Before I Had You opens with fifteen year-old Olivia seeing her twin sisters for the first swimming in the ocean off her Jersey Shore home iWhat I Had Before I Had You opens with fifteen year-old Olivia seeing her twin sisters for the first swimming in the ocean off her Jersey Shore home in Ocean Vista. As the story unwinds, we discover that Olivia's mother, Myla, miscarried her twin daughters a year before Olivia was born.
Myla decorated a nursery in their home, and acts as though the dead girls are ghosts, living with them. Olivia has grown up with this, and her mother claims to be a psychic, so she doesn't know that this is a manifestation of her mother's mental illness.
Sometimes Myla will disappear for days or weeks, leaving a young Olivia alone. James, Myla's married boyfriend, would bring by groceries and check up on her. Eventually, Olivia rebels, as teenagers will, and when Myla causes an incident that threatens Olivia's status with her new friends, Olivia runs away.
Years later, Olivia is bringing her teenage daughter Carrie and eight-year-old son Daniel back to New York City after a separation from her husband. While visiting Ocean Vista, Daniel disappears and Olivia and Carrie must find him.
The storyline moves back and forth in time, and as it progresses, we see how the bipolar disorder that plagued Myla is genetic. Olivia has bipolar tendencies, and although her husband at first is able to handle the situation, when Daniel begins to exhibit the signs of it at a very early age, he bails on the family, throwing them away like he throws away broken household items.
The last half of the story is really gripping, and there are some twists to the storyline that I didn't see coming, but they add so much to the emotional power of this sad story. Cornwell does an amazing job putting us into the middle of this family and showing us how Myla's illness rips through her family and causes repercussions even many years later.
Cornwell's writing is lyrical and her descriptions put such vivid pictures in your head, like the "crepe-paper elbows" of elderly women swimming in the ocean, and her realization that her teenage Carrie is becoming her own person, imagining her "writhing on her bed, shedding her skin, moving from a larval to a pupal state".
The title of the book comes from this passage about the power of the past. "The past, I feel in this moment, is something that parents dangle in front of their children, something hoarded and valuable that we can never touch. They pretend to share, pulling out old albums at Christmastime, but under their breath, they are saying, This is what I had before I had you." Mental illness is something that our society ignores and doesn't want to face. Cornell shows us the despair and difficulty of living with people who have bipolar disorder, the not knowing what to do to help someone who doesn't seem to want help.
This is a heartbreaking story that has stayed inside my head and heart, and if good fiction creates empathy in the reader, then What I Had Before I Had You qualifies as good fiction. ...more
Firefly Lane was the breakout novel for Kristin Hannah. It was the first novel she wrote in an all-female point of view, and the book she says where sFirefly Lane was the breakout novel for Kristin Hannah. It was the first novel she wrote in an all-female point of view, and the book she says where she found her voice.
It's 1974 and Kate Mularkey lives with her family in a Seattle suburb. She is not a popular eighth-grader, wears all the wrong things, gets picked on in school. All that changes when cool girl Tully moves in across the street with her hippie, drug-addicted mother.
Tully is basically raising herself, trying to care for her mom and run a house on her own. She hides her mother from everyone, telling Kate her mom has cancer. Tully lives on the wild side, and one night things go too far and it is Kate who is there to help her cope.
They become inseparable best friends forever, and everyone refers to them as one word-TullyandKate. Kate's mom finds out about Tully's mother's drug issues, and opens her home to Tully. She gives Tully the confidence to believe that she can have a bright future as a journalist, and Kate reluctantly is dragged into this plan.
The girls go to college together, and while Tully is dogged in her pursuit of her dream, Kate dates and looks to balance school with a dating life. Tully lands a job with a small local television station and gets Kate a job there as well. Kate falls in love with Johnny, the boss, who only has eyes for the gorgeous, vibrant Tully.
We follow Tully as she climbs the career ladder and Kate as she marries and raises her children. Their paths diverge, but they remain best friends, even though they have less in common.
Tully becomes a media superstar, but she thinks of Kate's family as her own. She dates, but she is lonely. Kate is a great mom, but as her daughter Marah becomes a teenager, Marah rebels and puts Tully in the middle.
Marah's rebelliousness leads to Tully making a big mistake and hurting Kate, destroying their friendship in the process. After years of estrangement, can Kate and Tully come together when they need it most?
I was about the same age as Tully and Kate were in 1974, and so all of the references are a touchstone for me. The songs (Billy, Don't Be a Hero is now permanently stuck in my head), the TV shows (Luke and Laura's wedding on General Hospital), Tiger Beat magazine, the clothes and hairstyles- it all came rushing back to me as I read it. Any woman aged 45-50 or so will be transported back to her teen years reading this.
The characters are interesting, and I especially loved Kate's mom, whom I suspect is based on Hannah's mother. She took in Tully and loved her, even when Tully did things that I found almost unforgivable, Kate's mom was there for Tully too.
Besides the theme of friendship, we see how women dealt with issues of work versus family life and what that means to their identity. The difficulties of parenting teenagers will hit home with any parent, but I am curious to see how women who chose to have a demanding career view the character of Tully.
Hannah writes a novel that has an ending that will emotionally devastate the reader, just like she did in Home Front. I don't know of any writer today who can make me cry as much as she does in her books. If you enjoy reading books that pack an emotional punch, Firefly Lane is a must-read. ...more