Week 32: House of Cards – David Ellis Dickerson

So a funny thing happened on my way back to the office after lunch on October 1, 2009 (and no, I don’t have a freaky good memory, just mad web searching skillz)… I was listening to NPR and came into the middle of some interview with some guy that had written a book and I think greeting cards were somehow involved. And you know how that is when you are coming into a talk radio program trying to catch up and figure out what is going on. Well, I was doing that and navigating the traffic and then all of a sudden I hear Neal Conan welcoming some caller named Tracy to the show and within the first syllable of this Tracy person opening her mouth I realize it’s TracEY and she’s a dear friend of mine from college who I had not seen in about six years. And here she is calling in to say she knows the author, Dave Dickerson and they went to college together and she was so excited to hear of his book and success and just wanted to say hello. And I know there were just too many ands in that paragraph but it really was all that.

AND… how cool and weird that we were all, in some way or some relay, all catching up with some part of each other through Neal’s show. Now, I don’t know Dave, but he sounded very affable and smart and I made a note to look up his book.

Fast forward nine months and Tracey and I are catching up over chips, salsa and a great lunch while she’s in town just for the weekend. I had not picked up Dickerson’s book, HOUSE OF CARDS: LOVE, FAITH, AND OTHER SOCIAL EXPRESSIONS (but I had looked it up and added it to my list to get, really!) In our chatting, she brings up her friend Dave and mentions that they have reconnected and she’s terribly embarrassed, but she needs to excuse herself to send him a text about some reading event that was happening right as we were getting our 37th refills of iced tea because we had been gabbing for that long. Then you know what she says? She says, “Let’s go over to the bookstore and if they have his book… I am getting it for you. I think you will love it.”

Now, I am never one to pass up a book–a free one at that. And, with it being one that was already on my list to get, well picture me pleased while I picture you all wondering if I am ever going to get to my review of it. And, I will. In just a minute. I promise.

So, while I was super excited to get this book, I was also kind of nervous. Tracey knows about this crazy reading project I am doing and she knows I write up reviews of all the books I read. Big deal, right? Well, I haven’t been in a situation where I am friends with someone who is also friends with the writer of one of the books I am actually reviewing. Tracey is cool beyond cool and would want me to be totally honest, which is great. But truth be told, there was a little bit of pressure. Just a tad.

Well thank goodness Tracey knows me as well as she does (college friendship plus 20 years and a facebook reconnection will do that for you). I really adored HOUSE OF CARDS.

The first thing it has going for it is that it’s a memoir. You all have pretty much figured out that I love me some memoir. Secondly, it’s so very well written. Very well. Dickerson is wicked smart (like so smart he creates those crazy puzzles that are published in puzzle magazines for other smarty smartenheimers that I can only imagine exist). He’s also a master with the rhyme and friends with Will Shortz. Yet despite all this and his mighty brains, Dickerson brings the same conversational tone that I overheard while he bantered with Neal and Tracey on NPR back in October. This made reading HOUSE OF CARDS like sitting and having a conversation with an energetic and engaging friend.

Third, it’s really interesting. In addition to getting a glimpse of life at Hallmark (which you would expect to be as warm and fuzzy as the cards they sell, but SPOILER ALERT: It’s not!), you get a peek into the life of a lapsed fundamentalist Christian virgin who at 29 is trying to connect with others and make a name for himself doing what he does best: write.

Hallmark plays a major role in the book. In fact, it’s almost another character. Dickerson describes, with much heart, the challenges and pain we all can feel when we are trying so very hard to fit in, locate like-people, and find our niche in an all-new world. Dickerson had envisioned Hallmark being a perfect landing spot; but, it proved to be one nut that was a pretty tough to crack.

The secondary story line that actually ends up proving to be of primary focus, is that of Dickerson’s personal history and his relationships. Dickerson grew up in an extremely conservative religious environment that he began to question as an adult. Despite initially converting to Catholicism and embracing more liberal views of the world (he’s now an Atheist), he found it hard to break from preconceived notions and beliefs that had guided him for so long. In his time at Hallmark, the rose colored glasses were coming off and it resulted in some hilarious, heartbreaking and cringe-worthy moments that may not be the experiences of the average modern male, but they were his own.

I guess you could say that HOUSE OF CARDS is a story that captures a window of time in the life of a man who is finding his way. A bit of a late bloomer who is finding his stride. A man who definitely has found his niche in the wonderful world of words.

Oh, and if you want to check out his chat with Neal, CLICK OVER HERE.

Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 384

Week 31: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress – Rhoda Janzen

MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS: You had me at the cover of your delightful looking little book. Yes, it was your cover that had my interest on high alert and my mouse ready to click “Add to Cart”. Then I looked closer and saw that you were a memoir. And you were endorsed by Elizabeth Gilbert of EAT, PRAY, LOVE fame. Well, I just had to add you to my shelf of all of my other impulsive book purchases that I have made but can’t actually make good on reading until some later date because that’s just how I roll.

Fast forward two months and my book club selected it for our August read. Picture me thrilled! Fast forward just a teensy bit more and see me glad to have read it but with a luster that’s faded ever so slightly.

MENNONITE IN A LITTLE BLACK DRESS (MENNO) is writer and professor Rhoda Janzen’s memoir of returning to her roots after a devastating car accident that left her physically scarred and the dissolution of her 15-year marriage that emotionally wrecked her. Home for Janzen is her Mennonite community on the west coast, thousands of miles from the midwest and her life of academia. Despite eschewing much about the faith, the food and the conservative upbringing her parents provided, Janzen finds that home is where the healing is.

In a dozen or so chapters, Janzen shares her history, both as a Mennonite daughter and then a codependent wife married to a charismatic yet bipolar, emotionally abusive and ultimately bisexual man who leaves her for another man. Her gift is in her sense of humor and ability to embrace a community that she once left behind. Janzen does this with a very conversational tone, a must for me in a good memoir. She seems very real and someone who would be great to sit next to at a dinner party.

My only real complaint was the number of stories and anecdotes she shared to give the reader a glimpse of her personal history. She crams so many of them into MENNO that I felt that she often interrupted herself to get another story in. And yet there were moments of realization, of reflection and remembrance captured so very eloquently that her talents as a writer can’t be denied. And, it’s this contradiction that has me struggling. I think MENNO is definitely worth a recommendation, but I wouldn’t say it’s for everyone. Oh, how I wanted to remain as totally smitten with this book as when I first laid eyes upon the cover! But I am a little more informed and a little better off for having read it. And I am sure, just like finding the perfect little black dress, this book will be the perfect fit for that special someone.

Rating: 3 stars
Pages: 272
Genre: Memoir

Week 25: The Mighty Queens of Freeville – Amy Dickinson

There was not a singular moment that signaled to Amy Dickinson her marriage was over. Not her husband showing up to counseling with a suitcase having just returned from a European vacation with a girlfriend. Not when he told her he no longer loved her. Not when he said that they no longer had anything in common. And not when he reminded her that most of the men in the lives of her family had left, so it was probably something she expected. Nope. It wasn’t until the moving trucks were sitting outside of her door that she registered the finality of their dissolution and was forced to move forward in life as a single mother. THE MIGHTY QUEENS OF FREEVILLE is Dickinson’s account of her survival, and ultimate triumph, with the help of the women who had raised her.

It was my own mother, a single mom herself, who recommended this book to me after hearing about it on NPR or the morning news circuit or some talk show. See, Dickinson is actually a pretty famous person. She’s the Amy of “Ask Amy” the advice columnist who replaced Ann Landers. She also appears frequently on NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” and “All Things Considered”. And she didn’t start out that way. No, she started in Freeville, NY a small town of fewer than 1,000 people. She started surrounded by strong women who keep on when the keeping on is all you can do. And when Dickinson needed to keep on for her own sake and that of her two year old daughter, it’s where she returned. Repeatedly.


Despite the title, the other women play a more secondary role than I expected. The book focuses on singular moments in Dickinson’s emergence from divorce into self-sufficient, single-mother. Yes, there were a number of times that she returned to Freeville (she even bought a ramshackle house for a mere $56K to serve as a second home and safe landing spot when she needed the comfort and reassurances of home). But the book really focused on Dickinson and her daughter, Emily. That being said, I found the book thoroughly engaging, humorous, poignant and full of resonating moments.


THE MIGHTY QUEENS OF FREEVILLE came to me at a perfect time. My own single-motherhood status becomes officially official any day now and with that comes a mixture of emotions. While my situation is very different from Dickinson’s, the loss of a marriage is significant, mourn-worthy and creates some of the most challenging moments going forward and out into the world with a new status. Dickinson’s writing style is familiar and comforting and is probably one of the reasons she’s a successful advice columnist. She’s comfortable in her own skin, thanks to the independence and self-sufficiency gained early on when her own father left the family high and dry. She’s bright and engaging and a bit of a self-proclaimed dork which endeared her to me further.


THE MIGHTY QUEENS OF FREEVILLE certainly has a niche demographic of readers in divorced single mothers, but I actually think it’s a great book for all women struggling, needing support of others, connecting with their own resiliency and surviving because of and in spite of everything they have experienced.


And with gems like these, how could you not want to pick it up?:
[blockquote]On Her Mother (After Her Father Left)

She simply prevailed. Prevailing is underrated. People have the idea that unless they win, they lose. But sometimes surviving is enough. My mother knew this, and I learned it by watching her.

On Dating

The search for connection is the most basic and beautiful impulse I have. I try to enjoy my efforts–even when they are misguided, not reciprocated or doofus in the extreme.

On Advice to Her College-bound Daughter

I told her that the feelings she has when she is young will be the same feelings when she’s old, and that she should try not to be afraid of them. I wanted her to be bold in her choices but careful in her actions. I told her never to be mean to someone who loved her, because regret is the only true casualty of love.[/blockquote]

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 240

Genre: Memoir

Week 22: One More Theory About Happiness – Paul Guest

Paul Guest is just 12 years old when a biking accident indelibly changes his life forever. Now 27, ONE MORE THEORY ABOUT HAPPINESS is Guest’s account of the events that resulted in his broken neck and adjustment to life as a quadriplegic. In a word, this memoir is stunning. In a few more words, it’s more than I expected–even in its mere 208 pages–and one that I think everyone should read.

It’s easy to tell in the first few pages of ONE MORE THEORY ABOUT HAPPINESS that Guest is a bright, mindful and considerate person. Wrapping up his sixth grade year at a barbeque hosted by his teacher, Guest and his best friend take off on a pair of old bikes while the food is still being prepared. The bikes are dilapidated at best and leave Guest wondering if a ride is the best thing to do; but once the tires are filled with air, the two take to the hilly streets of the neighborhood. Guest couldn’t have anticipated that the bike’s brakes were out of commission, nor could he have seen the drainage ditch lying in hiding under overgrown foliage. But when his speed picked up and he hit the ditch, he “was thrown from the bike, over the handlebars, catapulted, tossed like a human dart into the earth.”

What follows, in beautiful and lyrical prose, is Guest’s journey to find himself in this new body and to connect with others in real and meaningful ways. Understandably, he struggled with the forced intimacy that must be shared with a caregiver that sees you at your most vulnerable, when in need of help with basic life skills like eating, bathing and using the bathroom. And yet, I wonder if this exposure helped him create such an intimate account of his life, one that I felt fully welcomed to enter.


Despite what may seem like a grim story, Guest’s eloquence, insightfulness and humor convey a life that is not to be pitied. In fact, I found his story to be a reminder that, while life is fragile, we are all so very capable of greatness… whatever greatness is for us. Guest most certainly could have become embittered and resigned, yet he always worked through his therapies and sought his passion and is now not only a memoirist, but an award-winnng poet. I kind of wonder if he would have become a writer were it not for his accident. We may never know.


What I do know is that he has immense gifts and significant talent. I know that the words I write here don’t do any justice to the words he placed on the page for us all to experience. I know, or was reminded, that happiness is a choice no matter what your circumstances. I also know that I wanted just a little bit more from this otherwise perfect book. He is still so young with such a promising career that is just beginning to unfold.

Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 208
Genre: Memoir

Week 19: Hand Wash Cold – Karen Maezen Miller

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a trend developing. I don’t get much allow myself to get enough reading done during the week. So I end up saving all 200+, 300+ or even some 400+ page books to devour all day every Saturday (and sometimes into Sunday). Now, this is not a problem if:

a) The book is totally awesome.
b) I can get through it quickly (especially if I am not digging the book).
c) I want to make plans to do something other than reading.

This occurrence of the weekend reading slam-and-cram has, as you can probably imagine, left me feeling a little off-balance, a little chained to the project and a little bit cranky about it. And I haven’t even hit the halfway mark. What’s an over-committed-but soon-to-be-committed-reader-if-I-don’t-make-some-changes-and-fast to do? Chill out and pick up another book that can remind me of the simpler things and how to get in control of myself. Duh.

The book I chose to revolutionize my life–or at least provide some perspective–was Karen Maezen Miller’s HAND WASH COLD: CARE INSTRUCTIONS FOR AN ORDINARY LIFE. I came across this book when I was actually searching for another of Miller’s books, Momma Zen, that I found through a blogger I follow, Kerenika. Part memoir, part self-help guide on Miller’s path to finding balance and appreciating life, HAND WASH COLD seemed to fit the bill I needed to pay.

I don’t want to get too much into comparisons (as Miller says that’s one of our biggest problems worrying too much about how others do things, live or navigate the world), but her account had sprinkles of similarity to Elizabeth Gilbert’s wildly successful Eat Pray Love. I say that because, I don’t think this quiet little book has the backing or support of Gilbert’s, but I found it as nugget-worthy about living in the now and living our life’s purpose, whether that’s eating your way through Italy, praying through India or possibly finding love in Indonesia (no spoilers here, but really hasn’t everyone read Eat Pray Love?) as Gilbert did, or becoming a Zen priest as Miller did.

Miller is restless, hyper-critical of herself and unfulfilled. It’s only through the demise of her first marriage and losing everything that she takes time to reflect and take care of herself through focusing on her spiritual health that she finds her way and the real ease that exists in just living life and focusing on the here and now.

Miller is bright and clearly a solid writer. Those factors may have contributed to the book feeling little more literary than conversational, and that’s my only real complaint. I am not knocking a smartly written book. It just created, for me, a bit more distance from her than I would expect when reading such a personal story. Despite this, it did inspire me. I am going to work to make one hour of reading a daily priority. I am going to focus on one thing at a time. I am going to put my phone not just down but away when it’s mommy-kiddo time. I am also going to return to these (among the many other) gems Miller offered up:

On time:

Time doesn’t even exist. You are what exists. Time is what you are doing at the time you are doing it. There is no other time than this, so stop searching for the perfect metaphor for time and pick up the rake already. It’s time to rake, it’s time to cook, it’s time to clean, it’s time to write, it’s time to drive, it’s time to rest, it’s time to pay attention to how we use our time.

On seeking perfection:

We must go farther and completely forget ourselves to see that there is no need to perfect the life that appears before us. It is already perfect as it is.


On balance:

When I grow weary of what’s undone or anxious about what’s to come, I remind myself that I am not the maker or the order-taker in this life. I am this life, and it is unfinished. Even when it is finished it will be unfinished. And so I take my sweet time. Time is savored when you take it by the hand.

Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Memior/Spirituality
Pages: 200

Week 15: Why I’m Like This – Cynthia Kaplan

It was going to be a bit of a crazy week; and I knew this going into week 15. So, I took some time to find what I hoped would be a perfect book to serve as a welcome distraction to all the Have-to, Must-do, Can-you-also, and We-really-need-you-to responsibilities of the week. When I saw USA Today’s “Knee-slapping hilarious.” on the back of WHY I’M LIKE THIS: TRUE STORIES by Cynthia Kaplan, I was sold.

WHY I’M LIKE THIS chronicles milestone moments in Kaplan’s life that have shaped her into the woman she is today: her loss of virginity and the succession of Mr. Wrongs who followed until she met her husband, the relationships she shared with her grandparents and the impact their deaths had on her, and her struggle with infertility. I felt a connection with Kaplan in the opening stories. Her love of the arts, the admiration she felt for her grandparents, and challenges with dating felt familiar. I mean, I almost felt a sisterly bond with her when I read:


“I gave the guy a second chance but it ended anyway when I came to the realization that his grammatical errors would eventually drive me out of my gourd.”

A perfect match, right?




For whatever reason, Kaplan couldn’t sustain my interest. Perhaps it had something to do with the busy week I mentioned above. The reality is, WHY I’M LIKE THIS was easier to put down than it was to pick up. I really believe that timing–just like with meeting the right guy, landing the perfect job, or even nabbing the perfect parking spot (a shout out to Tepper!)–can be crucial with how we take to the books we pick. Where we are and what’s going on in our own worlds can certainly impact our impressions. But I also know that a really good book will keep you turning the pages, no matter what’s going on.


So, while I liked a few passages and loved the title of these stories, at the end of the day WHY I’M LIKE THIS was just okay.


Rating: 2 stars

Genre: Memoir

Pages: 240

Week 14: Official Book Club Selection – A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin


If you don’t like Kathy Griffin, you aren’t going to like this book. It doesn’t matter how many stars I give it or what I say about it, although, how flattering if it would! If you are reading this and don’t know who she is, I will just say she’s hysterically crass (that’s Rated-R) and most celebrities fear her. Or should.

I saw Kathy Griffin perform on tour this past January and her show, a 2-hour rant against celebrities and their crazy antics, had the audience roaring from start to finish. My sides were actually hurting so much that I counted the outing as my ab workout for the day. I definitely had a blast at her show; yet I am not a big celebrity memoir person. I did not rush out to buy the book that Kathy herself said she named OFFICIAL BOOK CLUB SELECTION in hopes that consumers would think Oprah had chosen it. Imagine my delight, however, when my gal pal Cynthia loaned me her copy and said, “You will cruise through this. I bet you can knock it out in four hours.” Confession time: I don’t read as fast as Cynthia thinks I do, but it was definitely a cruiser and I cleared it within the week.

OFFICIAL BOOK CLUB SELECTION chronicles Griffin’s upbringing as the youngest of four children to John and Mary Griffin of Oak Park, Illinois. A self-proclaimed “… kid who needed to talk. All the time.”, Griffin loved television and storytelling more than anything else (maybe not as much as cake, but they surely ran a close second). After high school she decided to take her gift of gab and love of Hollywood to the City of Angels with dreams of breaking into the biz.

Griffin does a great job detailing the road to stardom – it’s full of hard work, paying dues (unless you are John Corbett or Heidi Montag, one of whom she loves and the other she loathes), lots of rejection and definite double standards. She maintains a highly conversational tone and I felt as if I was following her around to auditions and growing up with her as she struggled to find her niche. As a member of the Groundlings (picture LA’s version of Second City) she worked day in and day out attempting to perfect her craft but had her share of failures, like when she blew the audition with Lorne Michaels to secure a spot on Saturday Night Live (Groundlings member Julia Sweeney nabbed it).

While the book is certainly funny, Griffin does a good job covering the not so funny stuff: a brother with many secrets, her volatile friendship with Andy Dick, and her failed marriage. I admit that prior to reading OFFICIAL BOOK CLUB SELECTION, I thought anyone was fair game for her, yet she does have boundaries. Also revelatory, she hasn’t pissed off everyone in Hollywood (and there’s even a key group of folks with whom she strives to stay in the best of graces). I thought she handled the serious sections well and they exposed a side of Kathy Griffin outside of the brash and off-color that most don’t ever get to see.

But let’s face it. Griffin’s job is to find the funny and make people laugh at almost anyone’s expense. And, laugh I did. The most, in fact, during the last two pages of the book. It was her hilariously written Reading Group Guide Questions that had me bump my final rating up a star. Yes, the questions are that funny.

Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 357

Week 11: She Got Up Off the Couch – Haven Kimmel

I read Kimmel’s first memoir, A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana during one of my annual girls’ trips to Mexico a couple years back. While taking in the sun, tasty margaritas and enjoying the simple things, I was enamored with this quirky small-town girl and her cleverly down-home way with words. She made childhood in a town of just 300 (THAT’S small!) a bit romantic. Living where everyone knows your name (forget that they all know your business, too) and where life seems less complicated or harried than that of the big city. I found her book utterly delightful, as did the friends with whom I shared it.

After that first book, Kimmel’s mother, Delonda, became as popular or intriguing as Zippy herself. One to sit firmly planted on the family couch, surrounded by books or knitting, Delonda did nothing much more than that – parenting from old, upholstered sofa cushions. Kimmel was repeatedly asked, “So did your mother ever get up off the couch?” And, so, a follow up was born.

SHE GOT UP OFF THE COUCH is really a story of Delonda Jarvis and her transformation from couch potato to college graduate at 40 (much to her husband’s disbelief), told from Zippy’s childhood perspective. It covers a time of significant change in the Jarvis household, when Zippy’s beloved brother marries and moves away, her sister starts her own family, and Delonda steps out of her comfort zone to go after her own dreams. It’s a time when Zippy begins to see her parents no longer as superheroes, but human and just as capable of achieving greatness as they are of falling from it.

Kimmel weaves her stories with both compassion and humor that left me laughing out loud and pausing for reflection. One of my favorite passages involved Delonda’s recent acquaintance with a foul-mouthed friend, “Big Fat Bonnie” a woman who would play a small but significant part in Delonda’s newfound independence:
“Well, I’ll be &*@! if I can’t teach you how to drive, and I will, too, you can bet your &*@!” Bonnie was saying. “No man would keep ME from driving a car, forget it! What is this, a Turkish prison? What do you do all day, just sit around watching the %*#^TV?!”
Mom blushed, but also looked a bit sheepish, then noticed me. “Bonnie, this is my daughter.”
I just continued to stand frozen in the doorway. I wanted to raise my hand and wave, but I was afraid I’d break the spell and miss a whole stream of good swears.
It’s clear that Kimmel has immense respect for her mother and the journey she took off the couch and into the classroom. Following her dreams, however late in life she did, largely influenced Kimmel herself to go after her own as a writer. Interestingly enough, her memoirs were never intended to be published, just documentation of her family for her family.

Fortunately, she too did what may not have been expected of her and shared them with all of us.

Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 336

Week 10: A Three Dog Life – Abigail Thomas

I scooped up several copies of Abigail Thomas’ memoir, A THREE DOG LIFE, after hearing her read at a local, indepdendent bookseller a couple of years ago. The seal of approval on the cover by Steven King noting it as “The best memoir I have ever read.” was certainly intriguing, but I was more taken by her and the glimpse she gave us into her life.

Simply told, in April 2001, Thomas’ husband Rich took their dog Harry for a walk and was hit by a car. The accident shattered his skull and the life that he and Abigail once shared. Not so simple was the reality of what would happen next. All were left traumatized by the event that permanently altered Rich, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury and a sketchy recollection of the world he once inhabited.

Thomas’ memoir is a love letter to her husband and the one, then two, then three dogs that ultimately helped her through the emotionally painful and unpredictable moments that followed Rich’s accident. She imparts so many lessons learned on the value of living in the moment, appreciating what you have right now, and wasting no time worrying about the future.

That’s not to say her road to these realizations was an easy one. Thomas regularly struggled with guilt about what happened and her husband’s eventual placement in a skilled facility that could better manage his volatile emotional state and physical limitations than she ever could.

Her writing is simple without being simplistic, authentic and just plain good. One of my favorite passages is when she realizes that life can go on and she can even expereince moments of joy and happiness:

If only life were more like this, you will think, as you and the dogs traipse up to bed, and you realize with a start that this is life.”

I was certain this book could have the possibility of wrecking me, sucker punching me when I least expected it, or even when I did. Thomas’ story is such a tragic one, but one that is offset by her sheer commitment to her husband and herself. It’s so beautifully told that I actually came away not with feelings of sadness but admiration for her, her perspective and her expertly and seemingly effortlessly crafted words.

Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 208

Week 2: Tender at the Bone – Ruth Reichl

TENDER AT THE BONE has been in my library for a number of years now. So many that I have lost count. I have obviously wanted to read it, or I wouldn’t have purchased it way back when. Unfortunately, when I finished the book, I wanted to have liked it more.

Reichl recounts the story of her youth, life with a manic depressive mother and a goes-along-with-everything father, and how she came to love the culinary and written arts. Her mother plays a prominent role in her young life, exposing her to some of the worst food she’s ever eaten (or that anyone has for that matter – reference the hospitalizations of more than 25 people after her mother hosted an engagement party for Reichl’s brother). The matriarch of the family is pushy, singularly focused on herself and pays her daughter he greatest favor when she sends her off to boarding school. It’s in Quebec that she meets young Beatriz and her wealthy french family. Each night, dinner is prepared by exquisitely trained French chefs, and so does Ruth’s romance with food begin.

Reichl’s tone is spot on, capturing moments of hilarity, shock and sadness. I just found, at times, that I was a little bored. I also think that I had a different picture of what I thought the book would be about and what time frame it would cover, and it was far different than my expectations. It didn’t help that this week did not afford me as much reading time as I had hoped, and this felt a bit more like an assignment than leisurely reading. We are only in week two. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this is just a reflection of this week and not a sign of the year ahead.

When all is said and done, I did enjoy it. There are certain friends of mine to whom I would recommend it. It just didn’t leave me with the feelings I had ultimately hoped it would.

Rating: 3 stars
Pages: 282
Genre: Memoir