Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hillary Manton Lodge's "A Table by the Window: A Novel of Family Secrets and Heirloom Recipes"
Hillary Manton Lodge writes a novel of family love and delectable recipes. Juliette D'Alisa, the youngest of five children in a French/Italian family, finds herself pulled in numerous directions.  She has a good job in an enviable field, but her boss wants her to go in directions that fail to thrill her.  One brother wants to open up a new restaurant with her as his partner, though a failed attempt in the past makes her hesitant.  She wishes for romance, but she is not meeting anyone in Portland.  She is stuck and unsure what to do.  Amongst her recently deceased grandmother's belongings, Juliette discovers a photograph of a man - clearly a relative, by the family resemblance - but no one she has ever heard of.  Sensitive to her family's loss, she stays quiet about the mystery photograph but begins to look into it on her own.  Where will her grandmother's story lead?  More importantly, what does Juliette truly want in life? 

If one theme stands out more than any other (besides a love of food), it is family - wonderful, nosy, uplifting, exasperating, beloved, and imperfect as they are.  Sibling dynamics play a huge role, and they are a dynamic bunch.  Each has their own personality, but the author does a wonderful job balancing their individuality with the common ties that make them family.   They might lose their temper or deliberately push each other's buttons, but in the next breath they forgive and turn to each other for comfort.  Lodge nails what a family is about. 

Many can connect with Juliette's place in life - slightly dissatisfied and lonely, needing a change yet afraid to leave the comfort of routine, directionless, discouraged by seemingly hopeless situations - nothing too major in and of itself, but there all the same keeping one from a truly fulfilling life.  Who hasn't been in a place like that?  I would take it a step further than the author and encourage one to be open to God's direction and ask for a change, a surprise, a gift of His love; who knows where it might lead? 

It must be said, the recipes included would make the book worthwhile, even if the story was a flop (and I would disagree with that assessment).  Even without pictures, they look mouthwatering.  I confess before reading the book itself, I skimmed through and investigated the recipes found at chapter ends (only the recipes; I did not skim the story itself).  Main dishes, beverages, and of course desserts are sprinkled throughout.  The Lamb Tagine is every bit as delicious as Juliette implies - well worth the long ingredient list!

Contemporary romance is not my favorite genre, but the connections to the past and the very down-to-earth feel of the story made it an enjoyable read (not to mention the descriptions of food that left me salivating).  I would not call it a spectacular or particularly profound work of fiction, but it is easy to relate to, and I look forward to finding out more about Mireille's secret past.  It is a novel to appeal to lovers of food and the dramas of everyday life.  4 out of 5 stars

Thank you Blogging for Books for a free copy of the novel for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.

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1 comment:

  1. I would take it a step further than the author and encourage one to be open to God's direction and ask for a change, a surprise, a gift of His love; who knows where it might lead?

    I like that outlook on problems and suffering, even flat tires.