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Book Cover Image: The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel

Title:  The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship

Author:  Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel

No. of Pages:  363

First Released:  October 2009

Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N):  “Lilly and Val are lifelong friends, united as much by their differences as by their similarities. Lilly, dramatic and confident, lives in the shadow of her beautiful, wayward mother and craves the attention of her distant, disapproving father. Val, shy and idealistic-and surprisingly ambitious-struggles with her desire to break free from her demanding housebound mother and a father whose dreams never seem to come true.

In childhood, “LillyPad” and “Valpal” vow to form an exclusive two-person club. Throughout the decades they write intimate letters in which they share hopes, fears, deepest secrets-and recipes, from Lilly’s “Lovelorn Lasagna” to Valerie’s “Forgiveness Tapenade.” Readers can cook along as the girls travel through time, facing the challenges of independence; the joys and heartbreaks of first love; and the emotional complexities of family relationships, identity, mortality, and goals deferred.

But no matter what different paths they take or what misunderstandings threaten to break them apart, Lilly and Val always find their way back together through their Recipe Club . . . until the fateful day when an act of kindness becomes an unforgivable betrayal.

Now, decades later, while trying to recapture the trust they’ve lost, Lilly and Val reunite once more-only to uncover a shocking secret. Will it destroy their friendship, or bring them ever closer?”

Comments and Critique:   I had absolutely no expectations about this book when I started, other than I hoped to get a few recipes to try on my family out of the deal.  Instead, I found an enjoyable read that kept me turning the page.

I have to admit that the subject matter itself was extremely painful.  Who hasn’t experienced at least one tumultuous relationship with a girlfriend while growing up?  Then I started thinking about Val and Lilly’s relationship?  Did Lilly truly ever like Val?  Lilly accuses Val of being needy, but is she really?  So many questions, so many left unanswered…

I personally related more to Val.  I felt she was more down-to-earth and just more me.  She seemed more forgiving of the two and tolerant of Lilly’s brush-offs and erratic behavior.  Because I could relate more to her experiences, this definitely tainted my opinion of Lilly, to the point where I was willing to forgive Val for her faults but not Lilly.

I do feel that the ending appeared a bit contrived.  After thirty-plus years of being apart, I have my doubts as to whether any future relationship would be a strong one.  In my opinion, there is too much baggage, too much emotional damage from the years apart.

I love how well the letters and the recipes tell the story.  It was by far my favorite part of the book.  The growth of the characters through their individual letters is poignant and yet extremely realistic.  I also enjoyed how that as Val and Lilly age, everything about the story does as well – from the verbiage and sentence structure to the experiences to the moods to their thoughts.  The recipes themselves were okay.  While there are one or two I want to try, most of them I felt were nothing earth-shattering or ground-breaking on the culinary front.  I imagine I could find better recipes online in a thirty-second search.  However, as the recipes are only the backdrop to the story, I am okay with generic ones I could find in Betty Crocker.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Recipe Club.  It did dredge up some painful memories of childhood friendships, but it is good to reflect on how wise that pain made me today.  I have yet to try one of the recipes in the book, but I have my eye on the chocolate cake recipe in there.  That one definitely had my mouth watering!  Thank you to Caitlin Price from FSB Associates for the opportunity to review this book!

Has anyone read this yet?  What did you think?  More importantly, have you tried any of the recipes?  Anything I need to make immediately?  As more food for thought, can two friends that parted ways over thirty years ago come back together and form a stronger, healthier relationship after three decades?

Image: Signature Block
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