Sunday, December 19, 2010

Eat Cake - Jeanne Ray

Summary: With her suddenly unemployed husband, her elderly mother, and a petulant teenage daughter sharing space under her roof, Ruth has enough stress already. Then she gets the phone call saying her father, a bar-hopping piano player, has broken both wrists and needs someone to take care of him. Since dear old Dad and Ruth’s mother are sworn enemies, it looks like stormy territory ahead.

Ruth reverts to her favorite stress-reduction technique, visualizing herself sitting in the warm, safe haven in the center of a bundt cake. She feels protected there, open to the universe but safe from it. Ruth’s husband Sam, a former hospital administrator, thinks he needs a career change and dreams of buying old sailboats, refurbishing them, and selling them for profit. Jarred by the risk-taking and potential for financial ruin, Ruth wonders if she could launch a mid-life career as a cake baker. She bakes all the time anyway, why not do it for profit?

The whole family gets into the act. Daughter Camille makes business cards that say “Eat Cake”, and thus a name is chosen. Ruth’s father contacts old cronies in fine restaurant service and offers them samples. Ruth’s mother sews elaborate presentation boxes for the cakes. Even Sam is enlisted into service on the production end. When Ruth loses the nerve to approach businesses to buy her cakes, Camille steps in, asking for double the price her mother had contemplated. Business takes off, and family happiness ensues.  (Summary from http://www.enotes.com/ and image from http://1.bp.blogspot.com/.)

My Review:  I feel a bit guilty giving this book only a 2.5 star rating.  It's not that it's that bad.  It just did not call to me.  Reading about how someone finds solace in the midst of a enormous cake doesn't make any sense to me.  I have a hard time understanding how cake could make everything all better--it just doesn't do that for me.  Even eating chocolate (my true vice in life aside from shoes) doesn't take me to a happy oasis where my problems don't exist, nor do I believe would it be able to do that for my family.  It might scratch the itch I'm having for chocolate, but it does not make me feel better.

There were parts to the book that I enjoyed: the happy perspective the characters give despite their difficult situation, the healthy relationship of the Ruth and Sam, some of the anecdotes about Ruth's father and his trials of having two broken wrists.  Where it fell flat for me was how everything was somehow magically fixed by Ruth being able to sell her cakes at a price unrealistically high.  That this pulls her family together as well detracts from the believability.  In a rose-colored-glasses world, yes this could exist.  Reality?  No. 

I have to agree with a friend of mine who said this seems to be a trend in books for middle-aged women: somehow making good money by doing something they love, particularly baking or cooking amidst a mid-life crisis.  Maybe Eat Cake was the first to start that trend (I wouldn't know because I don't read this type of book much), but regardless it still feels like a trend and one that I'm not about to join, let alone understand. 

Don't take my review as the end all be all for this book.  If you're a foodie, if you like to bake or cook, if you are going through a difficult trial and need an optimistic lens to look through, this just might be your fix.  It definitely wasn't mine and be sure to understand that is because cooking and baking are not that important to me.  Overall it's a good, clean book and I'm sure there's an audience out there for it.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Sum it up:  A book about trials where cake makes everything better.

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