Guess what?? I read a book this month. Not a Nook or a Kindle. A real paperback book. And it felt good, to actually turn the pages, to use a real bookmark (one I cross-stitched for my father years ago) to save my place. Don’t get me wrong. I love my Nookie and really like the idea of being able to take an entire library of titles with me so conveniently and compactly wherever I go. Likewise, I enjoy having my Kindle for PC on my laptop.
Maybe it is just the nostalgic, old librarian in me, but it was nice to read from print on paper again.
Before I review this book, there is a little story about the book that I want to share. I have talked about The Mustard Seed Cafe in a previous post here. I have volunteered a time or two there, and want to start going more regularly. When I met Christi Brown, one of its founding mothers/creators on my first visit, she told me that the idea of the cafe came to her after reading The Summer Cafe by Lisa Wingate. She found the book for me on the shelves of the little library they have at the cafe and I took it home to read.
I decided it would be best for me to purchase the book for my Nook because I am a slow reader and I didn’t want to “hog” Christi’s copy for too long. Long story short, I uploaded two different books with the title The Summer Kitchen, began reading one, then the other and couldn’t see a tie to Christi or The Mustard Seed Cafe in either.
Then being the ever alert (not) librarian I am (or was – or wasn’t?), I took a good look at the cover of the book Christi lent me and realized that neither of the two books I purchased for my Nook were the right book! I think God was trying to encourage me to put my electronics away and to read a real book. Or maybe He was just trying to tell me to pay more attention? Anyway, I read The Summer Kitchen by Lisa Wingate from cover to cover, turning the paper pages and saving my place with my Daddy’s bookmark.
And now here is my review:
The subject headings assigned to The Summer Kitchen (not to be confused by any other books by the same name!!) indicate that the book is about the psychological aspects of bereavement, about family, about runaways, city and town life, intergenerational relations, and lastly, life-changing events. Hmmm. From those subject headings it would seem that the plot of this book runs all over the place. And in some ways, I would agree. But we teach the children to identify what the story is MOSTLY about and this book, in my opinion, is mostly about life-changing events. And the way one life-changing event can have a domino effect on other aspects of one’s life. Sometimes so much so, that their life becomes almost unrecognizable as their own. It is realistic fiction told through the eyes of shared main characters, middle-aged mom SandraKaye and middle school aged Cass Blue.
SandraKaye experiences the death of her precious uncle, Poppy, and almost simultaneously the loss/disappearance of her adopted son Jake. But as is often the case in life, when one door (or two) closes, a window is opened. As SandraKaye prepares Poppy’s house to be sold and longs for her missing son, she meets Cass Blue, and her brother Rusty, who are on the run Child Protective Services and the whole foster care system.
SandraKaye stumbles into Cass’s life at the unlikely setting of a subsidized housing project’s Dumpster where some of the children living in the complex are foraging for food. SandraKaye’s initial reaction is a mix of disgust and confusion, why would children comb through trash for something to eat? But as fate would have it, she and Cass cross paths until SandraKaye realizes that around the corner from her comfortable family home, there are neglected children who are going to bed hungry every night.
From that realization, a friendship is born between SandraKaye and Cass. And as they work together on a project to ‘feed the children’, each fills the holes left by loss in the life of the other.
Wingate’s main characters are likeable…the plucky Cass who is wise beyond her years in common sense and life experiences and the struggling SandraKaye who is just trying to find some purpose, some sense to the recent upheaval of her home life. The story unfolds in alternating chapters related through the voices of SandraKaye and Cass. Wingate leads the reader logically through the story, with little side-stories and subordinate characters, from beginning to end.
Because I had the good fortune of reading from this borrowed paper copy of the book, I benefited from sentences and whole sections of the book that had been underlined or otherwise identified by Christi as significant. Three passages resonated with me in particular:
From page 280: Cass realizes that “If you expect to sink, you’ll sink but if you believe you’ve got the power, you’ll keep swimming…”
From page 297: SandraKaye tells herself “No more pretending. It was time to make a life that wasn’t shiny on the outside but hollow on the inside.”
From page 298: SandraKaye realizes that “Sooner or later, you have to shed your family’s expectations and run the race on your own.”
Christi Brown was searching for a new purpose to her life when she read The Summer Kitchen. I have been searching this past year for my new purpose in life (since retirement). My favorite part of this book is knowing that SandraKaye and Cass found their purposes, their happiness and that Christi did, too. And now I am working toward that end for myself.
Hugs and sticky kisses,