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Smart Reads: The Cookbook Collector

Posted Feb 01 2011 2:56pm
It has been a long while since I've wanted to race home just so I could read a book.

Yet that is exactly what happened last night, as I drove home from the gym. So eager to read was I that red lights caused minor feelings of happiness, because it meant I could read a snippet or two more in what had turned into very climactic action (perfectly timed to the end of my workout...of course).

What book could do this? The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman.
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I probably read about it in some Redbook or Woman's Day magazine I picked up from a magazine rack at the gym or at the car shop or in a doctor's office, then wrote down the title and put it on my hold list at the library. Regardless, I didn't know what I was getting in to when I brought it to the gym four days ago.* [Yes, it had been read solely--until last night--while exercising.] I'm sure I was just attracted to the title...being something of a cookbook collector myself, you know.

*Quick note: I love when I get a library book that will actually stay open on the little book rack thingies on the elliptical. It's so aggravating when they fall shut without you holding down the sides...which is totally impossible while simultaneously exercising.

Reviews vaguely referred to it as a modern-day Jane Austen novel, and, having become an expert in Austen for my senior year A.P. English Lit class, I was eager to find out whether this was the case. I think it gets the Austen association simply because the action revolves around two, very opposite sisters...and perhaps the vague influence of contemporary social mores and the focus on love and all of its complications.

But this book manages to pack in so much in its 394 pages, I'm not sure how it happens: love, betrayal, family dynamics, loyalty, self-identity and how it is constructed, the rise and fall of dot-com billionaires, death of a parent, death of a fiance, death of a husband, wealth, power, prestige, grief, loss, hope, infidelity, legal battles, art, literature, poetry, charity, expectations of ourselves and that others have for us, friendship, trust, fear, faith, religion, optimism, cynicism, environmentalism, terrorism, materialism, veganism....

And yes, there are cookbooks. But they are used for a sort of metaphorical plot point, and the focus is definitely not on food. (Although there is a very deliciously described peach eaten at one point.)

It's times like this I wish my book club actually read books.
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