Just because this blog is winding down does not mean I have not binge read appropriately seasonal books for it. Well, partially. If I was as seasonal as I’d like to think, this month would also feature presidents and Black History Month topics (it still could, one never knows). But for now, the plan is Valentine’s Day. Because I’ve been a white girl with protestant heritage since I blew onto this planet and with that privilege I have enjoyed many a Hallmark holiday. And I plan to, pun intended, spread the love!
Also for some reason I have been eating those boxed chocolates for three weeks already, pretty much since they hit the stores in January and I was buying 37 cent chocolate Santas. Those were good Santas.
Valentine’s Day is about treats and couples. This week is two magical realism titles about treats. Because a magical realism backlist that fits into a holiday theme is a double win for me.
The Cake Therapist, Judith Fertig
Claire O’Neil, or Neely, returns to her hometown after her marriage flounders back in NYC to start a bakery of her own. The narrative alternates with that of two poor sisters down on their luck sixty years before, and the mystery of how they get lost from one another after losing what little they had in the world. Added to this is Neely’s marriage drama and her sixth sense, centered mainly in her sense of taste. She is a bakery owner, but her extra abilities make her a healer and a savior too.
This was darker than I expected. It has been sitting on my magical realism list forever and I thought it would be like other books I have read centered around creative hobby businesses. I love me a book about creative hobby businesses and some psychic abilities rolled in there so you can be like low key helpful without all the responsibility of being in a healing profession. Total wish fulfillment. But this narrative is deepened with the intersecting historical fiction tale with the two little girls on the edge of disaster, and then one outright has a crisis. It’s very different from the wedding business and the single woman in her thirties trying to get out of her marriage and try to make sense out of her childhood. I don’t know if the contrast in the tone between stories would turn off some readers. One reading for diversion might not like the dark aspects. A reader who likes darker things might not even want to read a book about a bakery. I mean, I liked it. I’m glad I got it out of my nightstand in a fit of feeling like I never make serious progress with my book piles. And there’s more depth than expected. I can respect that in a book, even if it’s not what I was picking it up to read. A mystery that doesn’t turn out to be cozy at all.
Chocolat, Joanne Harris
Vienne Rocher moves into a devout Catholic, sleepy town in France and opens a chocolate shop. An independent woman raised as a transient herself, she shakes up this town of traditional values, bringing change and healing to them and healing her own childhood wounds in the process.
This was feel good book for sure, but like with The Cake Therapist, there was more darkness than I expected and more magic. I mean both books were recommended as Magical Realism even though they don’t feel like the South American magical realism that I’ve read. Psychic abilities are more mainstream and subtle than like all the weird and fantastical stuff that goes on with Marquez and Allende. Anyway, this was compelling and multi-layered and I love books where magical treats bring people together. I love books about attachment and healing, and outgroups coming together. I kind of wanted it to end differently, but it was probably meant to end the way that it did. An outcome I’d prefer for myself does not mean that it is in keeping with the character or the best outcome for everyone, and I think to be widely read and enjoy being widely read is appreciating outcomes that you would not personally want.
Next week, the veritable day of love itself! Will feature at least one book about a couple. I still have to finish it and I’m woefully behind because I am working on books to blog about on the author website I am building. So many questions I don’t know the answers to, but that’s always part of the adventure!