Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jenn's Review: The Lost Art of Mixing

 Blurb:  Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect. . . .

Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given.

 Review:  In my quest for food-lit, I came across Erica Bauermeister's first novel, The School of Essential Ingredients, which I adored (my review).  My only complaint with it, was it felt a little too open ended, so I was beyond thrilled to learn that there was a sequel, The Lost Art of Mixing.

Not all the threads from the previous novel are present in this continuance, but new threads have been picked up that are just as interesting.  It took me a few chapters to get back into Ms. Bauermeister's writing style, each chapter from the viewpoint of a different character, but mostly I think it was because after the excitement of a huge reveal in the first chapter with Lillian, we are moved on to to steady, reliable Al and I was resistant.  Not that Al's story wasn't interesting, it provides impetus for the rest of the novel, I just didn't want to leave that particular story thread.  My heart broke for Isabelle who is at the cusp of loosing her independence.  I loved the introduction of Finnegan into the group.  The only character I had a difficult time with was Louise, even though I could see things from her perspective, but I did start to warm up to her a little  by the end.  I would have liked at least a mention of some of the characters that are left behind in this book, but Ms. Bauermeister is very true to life, in that people wander in and out of your life and you don't always get to know their full story.  This is true here too, as Ms. Bauermeister leaves things slightly open ended again, but with more of a sense of closure for me than with The School of Essential Ingredients.

One of my favorite lines from The School of Essential Ingredients is “We’re all just ingredients. What matters is the grace with which you cook the meal.” I think The Lost Art of Mixing follows this tenet, but is with less emphasis on the food.  For me, the novel is a combination of The School of Essential Ingredients and Joy for Beginners.  Food was important to the novel, but it is the celebrations of the little things in life and double sided truths that is central.  I think that was my only disappointment, that Ms. Bauermeister taken a step away from the sensuality of the food which I adored in her first novel.

If you've never read Erica Bauermeister, I highly recommend her.  Her writing is elegant and inviting and her stories are illuminating.  She always gives every side of the coin, and there is something refreshingly honest in that.

Final Take:  4/5

Thank you to Penguin Books for my ARC.



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