I love to cook. I thought the idea of a group getting together to share dishes from one cookbook sounded really fun! I’d enjoy that in real life. I also needed an audio for my commute. I then discovered this was why I’d found and enjoyed another of Harbison’s books, When in Doubt, Add Butter.
Margo’s husband walks out on her, leaving her shocked. She find a meet-up for a cookbook club in her area and goes. There she meets Aja (“Asia) and Trista. The club provides the friendships she’s been needing.
Along the way we come to know Margo’s college buddy, big-name star Max who is finding privacy, redoing the farm house Margo got in the divorce. We meet Brice and his step-brother Lewis, too, through Trista’s post-law career as a bar owner and restaurateur. Finally there is the fraught Lucinda and Michael duo–mother and son, with whom Aja is involved.
While I enjoyed this story, I felt the actual cookbook club was forgotten and worked back in here and there. It may be that the marketing people fell on that for the title and that the author had not intended it to be such a big thing in the story–she may have meant to use the club’s choices for each meeting as an anchor for the chapter and marketing went over-the-top with the idea. Or maybe the first chapter sold the book and then seat-of-the-pants storytelling hijacked the idea.
I liked the characters and their stories were well told but definitely had a “seat of the pants” feel to the storytelling. The chapters alternated among the three women’s stories and the friendships grow, the backstories emerge, their lives are revealed, but then it was just over–and awkwardly with a few story lines such as that of Margo’s ex-husband. [Minor spoiler] For example, I did not see why she needed to call the police when he was in no way threatening. That was odd. Max is involved with Margo’s YouTube, and the author seemed to be setting up conflict, but that just disappeared until the epilogue in which the stories were neatly tied up.
This story was good–but had the potential to be so much better. Opportunities for conflict and subsequent character development were ignored. And, while the food was good, especially in the recipe-testing scenes in Trista’s bar, and there is added content with recipes, I thought it odd that more wasn’t done with this–maybe all of the ladies coming together to start a restaurant or cooking school with locally-sourced organic produce or something like that. I thought that was the obvious destination but perhaps that was too obvious. Instead we ended with “that’s all” basically. Too bad. That could have led to a nice sequel.
As a nice, light story, it was fine. The characters were believable and likeable. The story checked a lot of good boxes for most potential readers–cooking healthy, book club, angst about having real friends,good food, trendy activities like yoga and YouTube, restoring houses, and more. I really hoped with the great description of Margo’s “curated” kitchen in the first chapter that there’d be more of this, too, but no. The cookbooks chosen seemed pretty simple–The Joy of Cooking, Magnolia Table, Linda McCartney’s vegan cookbook and a few others of that caliber seemed less than inspired for such a group. There was zero diversity, which could have been too contrived for the story, but seems an obvious thing to miss in a foodie book. Other cultures are what makes food so interesting.
Never the less, I look forward to more from this author and will likely read more from her backlist.
The Cook Book Club by Beth Harbison
Also by Beth Harbison
My Review of When in Doubt Just Add Butter