Candace Burton's Reviews > The Cookbook Collector

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
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Aug 02, 11


Sometimes a book starts out so brilliantly that reading it is a fantastic voyage, only to be brought up short by a less-than-stellar conclusion. Goodman has managed to turn that paradigm inside out, composing a novel so startlingly quiet at the beginning and so stunningly well turned out at the finish, that the conclusion doesn't seem at all posited by the beginning. Jess and Emily are a pair of semi-orphaned sisters whose mother died when they were small, and whose father has remarried and had two more much younger daughters--his second family. Jess and Emily are radically different and radically the same: one the head of a very successful startup, the other a grad student in philosophy who works part time in a book shop and lobbies to save the redwoods. Both are a little lost in the world, and the story of how they both ultimately get found is Goodman's unifying thread. Toward the end of the book, one of the sisters suffers an immense tragedy, and Goodman's depiction of what that experience feels like is perhaps the truest I have ever read. As is her resolution thereof. You'll come away from this book convinced that humanity is largely insane, barbaric, and hugely flawed--but also mystical, enchanting, and generally worth keeping an eye on.
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