Monday, December 15, 2014


Ruth Reichl


Genre: Fiction

Summary (from the publisher):  In her bestselling memoirs Ruth Reichl has long illuminated the theme of how food defines us, and never more so than in her dazzling fiction debut about sisters, family ties, and a young woman who must finally let go of guilt and grief to embrace her own true gifts.

Billie Breslin has traveled far from her California home to take a job at Delicious, the most iconic food magazine in New York and, thus, the world. When the publication is summarily shut down, the colorful staff, who have become an extended family for Billie, must pick up their lives and move on. Not Billie, though. She is offered a new job: staying behind in the magazine's deserted downtown mansion offices to uphold the "Delicious Guarantee"-a public relations hotline for complaints and recipe inquiries-until further notice. What she doesn't know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery.

Delicious! carries the reader to the colorful world of downtown New York restaurateurs and artisanal purveyors, and from the lively food shop in Little Italy where Billie works on weekends to a hidden room in the magazine's library where she discovers the letters of Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, who wrote to the legendary chef James Beard during World War II. Lulu's letters lead Billie to a deeper understanding of history (and the history of food), but most important, Lulu's courage in the face of loss inspires Billie to come to terms with her own issues-the panic attacks that occur every time she even thinks about cooking, the truth about the big sister she adored, and her ability to open her heart to love.

Review:  Maybe I should create a new genre called Foodie Fiction, because that's definitely what this book is.  Is it great literary fiction?  No.  The main character hints at tragedy earlier in her life, but this isn't explored until very late in the book, and then only briefly, so it was hard to really get to know Billie.  I found quite a bit of this book unrealistic - Billie's first day on the job, her relationship with her family, how perfectly things seem to happen to her, and then why on earth was there such a mystery about the Lulu Swan letters?  It just didn't make any kind of logical sense.  And the characters in this book are such serious foodies that it started to drive me a little crazy.  I mean really, do we need to only eat balsamic vinegar that has been aged in six different types of wooden casks?  Come on.

BUT.... this book was so much fun to read.  I enjoyed reading about Billie discovering herself in New York City, and I liked the sections that talked about recipe development.  I think travel food writer Sammy was my favorite character, with his impressive vocabulary and quirky personality. But my favorite parts were the Lulu Swan letters, and although I couldn't fathom why they were hidden so mysteriously, I did enjoy the mystery of finding them.  

Rating: 4 stars

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