Belinda's Reviews > The Cookbook Collector

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
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's review
May 08, 2011

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Read in May, 2011

If you like Maeve Binchy, but you like your characters to be a bit more deep and introspective, this is a great book for you. Set in the US during the tech boom-and-bust of 1999-2002, the storyline follows two sisters who are on very different paths. The elder, Emily, is a 28-year-old CEO of a start-up on the brink of its IPO; the younger sister is Jess, a 23-year-old philosophy graduate student with a knack for dating the wrong guys. Surrounding them are brilliant -- and I do mean literally brilliant -- people. Math whizzes, engineering gurus, PhDs from MIT, rare book experts and MicroSoft millionaires make up the "supporting cast" of more than a dozen characters. Generally I find these large ensemble novels to be difficult to follow, but Goodman does a good job of keeping them clustered as "friends of Emily" or "friends of Jess", which makes each story line definitely fuller and more interesting.

I am puzzled why this is titled "The Cookbook Collector." The themes around the arc of the collector's storyline don't emerge until mid-way through the book, and they tie into some of the other characters' issues, but not enough for me to see a clear connection. Shrug. It's a minor quibble.

My other issue with this book is the arc involving a Jewish sect and how it relates back to the sisters. Interesting group of characters, but tied up too neatly in the novel's end for my taste.

Definitely a book you should add to your summer reading pile. I will be taking a look at Goodman's other books to see if her other work is on par with this one.

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