Monday, July 25, 2016

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living

Title:  The City Baker's Guide to Country Living
Author:  Louise Miller
Publication Information:  Pamela Dorman Books. 2016. 356 pages.
ISBN:  1101981202 / 978-1101981207

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The night I lit the Emerson Club on fire had been perfect for making meringue."

Favorite Quote:  "You have a say, young lady. Don't you forget it. And don't wait too long to decide. Not making a decision is making a decision."

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living floated to the top of my to read pile because I was in the mood for a simple, sweet story. No shocking twists, no unpredictable turns. Just a feel good book perfect for a summer afternoon. This book delivers on all counts.

The "city" is Boston. The "baker" is Olivia Rawlings. The book begins with the city baker involved in an unfortunate accident that results in the dinner club where she works catching fire. The baker makes a quick exit, not waiting for the fallout. Therein comes "country living" in Guthrie, Vermont, a small town that is home to Olivia's best friend Hannah.

Olivia's reputation as a baker precedes her. A few conversations and small town relationships lead to a job as baker at the Sugar Maple Inn. All of sudden, Olivia is enveloped into the life of the small town with all that entails. The book does a wonderful job of capturing the warmth and charm of its small town setting. It's a place where everyone knows each other, and everyone knows everybody's business. It's a place where people have long memories and even longer grudges. It's a place that creates an image of a simpler life, with music, laughter, long walks, and the smell of freshly baked apple pie. It's a place where strangers become family, and, of course, where romance enters the picture.

The main character Olivia is a charming, sympathetic one. Her answer to life's conflicts seems to be to run and to dye her hair a different vibrant shades. Let's just say she goes through a lot of hair colors through the book. She explains it, "People say happiness starts from within, but I'm a firm believer in 'fake it till you make it.'" Olivia has been on her own since the age of sixteen, and underneath her bravado lies a girl looking for home and a place to belong. She doesn't always make the best choices, but still, I want things to work out for her. I want her to find home.

Martin, the male lead, is not as well developed, but the side characters and stories about Margaret, Dotty, Henry, and the local musicians more than make up for that. Their stories are in turn funny and sad. The book makes me part of that small town family, smiling and crying along with them.

One word of warning. Do not read this book when hungry. I could practically smell the baked goods wafting through the book.

Comparisons have been drawn between this book and Kitchens of the Great Midwest. I don't see the similarity other than the fact that both are foodie books about female chefs. The structure and story take the two books in very different directions. Both books work but for very different reasons. Kitchens of the Great Midwest is about a woman's journey told in vignettes from different perspectives. The City Baker's Guide to Country Living is a woman and her choices captured at a moment in time.

This book works in its simplicity. It sets out to tell a story of home, family, and community with its laughter and tears, and it succeeds.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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