In the first few pages, the mood is set. The book appears to be one that will be pleasant to read. It is about love, friendship, relationships and all the myriad things that can happen to someone in their lives, both good and bad. The author speaks in a charming, simple tone and makes you feel right at home, just like the friendship bread which seems to be at the core of the story, the theme that ties it all together.
It is an easy book to read, perhaps more like a beach read. Although it seems like a very “light” book, written very simplistically, it imparts a message about friendship which is open to many interpretations. If we explore how each of us thinks we go about making friends or what each of us considers to be the meaning of friendship or commitment, we could probably have a very lively discussion!
Although it is not a book of great depth, and some of the characters are a bit weak and shallow, I would not dismiss it. It tackles so many subjects that have great depth: death of a child, death of a husband, divorce, estrangement in families, infidelity, pregnancy, ambition, self-respect and relationships in general etc. It is because of that, that I believe it would be a marvelous book to discuss in a group.
Julia has lost a child, Hannah, a former concert cellist, is going through a divorce, Madeline, the elderly owner of the town tea shop, is suffering from her own period of adjustment and loneliness after the death of her husband, Livvy is estranged from her sister and she and her husband are having deep financial difficulties. And then there is Edie (unmarried, living with the town doctor), the reporter who exposes the Friendship Bread to the world and with it hurt several people in the process. She struck an angry nerve within me. Consumed with self interest, she writes her story, and instead of emphasizing the goodness of the effort, she emphasizes the negatives in an attempt to gain fame for herself and play “gotcha” with someone’s life without thinking about the consequences of the act she has committed. She is a caricature of today’s journalist, willing to do anything to get the story, regardless of whether or not the facts are stretched or even real. Another character who tries to throw a monkey wrench into other people’s lives is Vivian. She is an over ambitious, unhappy woman who will stop at nothing to get ahead. She doesn’t respect the bonds of marriage, the protocols of her office or the boundaries imposed by its hierarchy and has an overblown idea of her own importance.
Oddly, I felt as if the men in the story were portrayed softer, weaker perhaps, at times, but more human too; as characters they seemed filled with positive energy and were definitely without the emotional excesses of many of the women cast in the novel. They seemed put upon by life, innocent in the whirlwind that engulfed them while the women seemed to be more the cause of their own problems because of their own weaknesses or insecurities.
There are several extraneous characters whose stories suddenly appear without any serious development. Some of the characters seem like caricatures of themselves, and often, the dialog is trite and the situations seem over used. That said: the redeeming feature of the book is its ability to empathize with, and also illustrate, the issues that confront all of us today, in one way or another. Also, it is a fairy tale and who doesn’t like a fairy tale with a happy ending?