The Way Life Should Be

The Way Life Should Be

Title:  The Way Life Should Be
Author:  Christina Baker Kline
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Publication Date:  2007
ISBN:  978-0-06-236354-1

Book Summary:
Angela’s New York City life as an event planner may not have been perfect but she had control of what is happening.  When a friend actually has success on a kissandtell’s dating site, Angela figures it is worth a try.  The first guy she connects with is MaineCatch, a thirty-five-year old who runs a sailing school on Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine.  They exchange innocent flirtations and start chatting on the phone.  He sends her creative haikus and even ventures down to the big city for a whirlwind romantic weekend, and then he invites her to Maine to visit.

When a mistake at work has disastrous results, Angie loses her job.  After moping around at home, she throws caution to the wind and decides to take Rich, aka MaineCatch, up on his offer to visit.  Her father, step-mother, and brother all think she is crazy, but her Italian grandmother, Nonna, simply comments that it is cold up there and she should make sure to make some stone soup.  Angie grew up learning to cook in the traditional Italian ways alongside her grandmother, but when she suggested going to culinary school, Angie’s father scoffed, stating “Cooking isn’t a real job.” Angie packs up a few of her belongings and heads north.

Rich’s home and self aren’t exactly as he suggested and Angie seeks refuge at a small coffee shop in town.  There she meets Flynn, an Australian who is came to Maine to follow a boyfriend.  The boyfriend long since left, but Flynn has remained and runs the Daily Grind.  With Flynn’s help, Angie is able to find a small rental to live in as she licks her wounds.  She slowly begins to help Flynn around the coffee shop and introduces the idea of serving better food.  Flynn balks at the idea until customers flock to the shop for her homemade soups and muffins.

Angie begins to meet some of the island’s other residents and proposes cooking classes to help fill the long quiet evenings.  Through good food, good conversation, and new friends, Angie starts to discover the difference between what life should be and what it can be.

Book Commentary:
This book was a total impulse buy – I was at Target and hadn’t spent my allotted $100.  You know, you can’t walk out of Target without spending at least that!  I usually peruse the book selection and try to talk myself out of buying more when I already have so many at home to read, but this one caught my eye.  I love the beauty and isolation of Maine and thought it would be a great backdrop for a story.  I wasn’t wrong.  This was a very enjoyable book.  I liked the characters and their growth, and although much of the book was predictable, I felt comfort in watching the story unfold.

I especially enjoyed that discussions of cooking and how growing up with her grandmother, Angie learned about life though the process of making food.  It reminded me of baking with my own grandmother.  The stories that she told while rolling out dough or mixing up a casserole gave me a lot of insight on her past.  She always seemed to talk more freely when her hands were busy cooking.  Although at times my grandmother was a bit of a questionable cook – don’t ask my dad about the coffee grounds in the spaghetti – the insight I gained from her life and her lessons will always remain with me.  That was the feel I got from reading this book.  The recipes included at the end of the book also are a great addition.

Who might like this book:
This is a great book for book clubs; I think that food and cooking can be a unifying force between different people and I think many people have life memories based on food.  I would love to see the interpretations of this book as seen through discussions of different generations of a family.  I am saving this book for my mom and will be curious to know her thoughts.  The author is probably best known for her novel Orphan Train.  I read it a while ago and remembered enjoying the author’s writing style.  She is poignant without being sappy.  She has a number of other novels to her name, all independent of one another, and I probably will pick up another one . . . next time I’m at Target.  Pretty good chance I’ll be there again.

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