Genre: Women's Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
First Published: Sept 27, 2016
First Line: "In the cemetery tucked back behind First Baptist Bible, next to the broad-leaf tobacco patch twelve miles south of town, scrawled out writing on a buckled tin sign reads 'No Burials Without Written Permission."
Book Description from GoodReads: Food, friendship, family, and a fresh start. Shelby Preston, a young single mother, is at a crossroads. She feels suffocated by her hardscrabble life in rural Georgia and dreams of becoming a professional chef. Lord knows her family could use a pot of something good.
In Atlanta, Mallory Lakes is reeling from a bad breakup. The newspaper food columnist is also bracing for major changes at work that could put her job at risk. Determined to find the perfect recipe for how to reinvent herself, she gets involved in the growing farm-to-table movement. But an emotional setback threatens to derail everything she’s worked for.
Shelby and Mallory couldn’t be more different. But through their shared passion for food, they form an unlikely friendship—a bond that just might be their salvation.
This heartwarming and lyrical tale reminds us that family isn’t necessarily whom you’re related to—it’s whom you invite to your table.
This is a new release of a previously published edition titled Simmer and Smoke; it contains twenty delightful recipes.
My Rating: 2/5 stars
My Review: This is a down home Southern read about family, making one's way, food and a whole host of other issues. The book centres around two women - Shelby, a small town, young single mother who dreams of becoming a chef so she can make a better life for herself and her young daughter and Mallory, a well-to-do and recognized food blogger who wants more out of life. These two very different women's lives intertwine as the book progresses.
Lampman is a very descriptive writer regularly bringing her readers into the mindsets of her two main characters, Shelby and Mallory and even occasionally into the thoughts and feelings of Shelby's daughter, Miss Ann. But readers don't always have to be privy to every emotion a character feels in order to have a connection with them. In this case, the excessive inner dialogues and descriptions bogged down the pace of the book so much that I was left to gloss over these exceedingly detailed sections in search of the story line. I'm all for descriptive imagery and getting into the mindset of a character but surprisingly this in-depth look into their emotions didn't help me to connect with any of them.
What this book does have is a foodie's dream of vividly depicted foodie delights with the end results being quite tempting to the reader's palate. But one cannot live on food descriptions alone. The main issue that I had with this book is that there were 'too many cooks in the kitchen'. Lampman addresses so many different, and often weighty and emotional, issues within her story that it quickly became convoluted and lacked direction. I'm talking about issues such as racism, struggles of single parenting, vast discrepancies between social and economic classes, cheating spouses, the organic farm-to-table movement, bullying, drugs, humane slaughtering of animals, alcohol and prescription drug abuse, drinking and driving, discrimination against Mexican immigrants ... That's a lot of issues in one small book. The inclusion of all of these issues didn't give Lampman enough time to delve into any of the issues with any depth and resulted in a rather lackluster read.
While I enjoyed that a food blogger was one of the main characters and that this book focused on the strength and power of women, this book suffered from having too much yet not enough going on. I think the premise was interesting and I thought that I'd devour this book but in the end I left Lampman's literary table hungry.
Note: Some readers who enjoy good ol' southern cooking will enjoy that the recipes mentioned in the story are included at the back of the book.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to the author and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.