[This review is based on the ARC (Advance Reader Copy) digital edition published by St. Martin’s Press in 2014.]
The single-sentence synopsis:
Newly-divorced Portia Cuthcart leaves behind her Texas home to start a new life in New York City with her sisters, and she discovers love and friendship as she finds her way in this completely different world.
Judging the cover:
It really appeals to the girl in me — I love the painted mason jars! But the best part is that it really doesn’t give away much about the novel’s plot, which I personally think is fantastic.
First thought I had after I finished reading:
I was completely and fully engrossed in this one! Equal parts fun and deep, and they work together really well!
And here’s why:
I found myself to be incredibly envious of Portia’s gift, which she and her family refer to as “the knowing”: Basically, her brain tells her to cook very specific things but she has no idea why, or for whom she’s cooking, until after the meal has revealed itself in her head. It’s a fascinating concept, really, and a fresh take on the popular “woman-remaking-her-life-starting-in-the-kitchen” plot. It wasn’t at all what I was anticipating when I opened the book, but I’m thrilled with it — it literally sucked me in. I started reading and had tremendous difficulty with stopping.
The characters themselves played a huge role in my investment in The Glass Kitchen as well. I may not be the jilted ex-wife of a popular Texas politician, and I definitely don’t have the knowing, but I connected with Portia (and her sisters, for that matter) on a much more personal level. Portia has just undergone a major change in her life, and now it’s up to her to choose her path…to remake herself, so to speak; I went through a huge change with the birth of my son, and now I’m trying to carve out a new niche for myself beyond that of a wife and mother. Establishing that connection early on helped me to fully immerse myself in Portia’s story, and I was rooting for her from start to finish. I also found myself cheering for her neighbor, Gabriel, and his two daughters, too-smart-for-her-own-good Ariel and typical troublemaking teenager Miranda, with the hope that they could rebuild their familial bond after tragedy strikes. The only characters I felt an intense dislike toward were Portia’s ex-husband Robert (for obvious reasons), and Gabriel’s brother Anthony and their mother, Helen (for not-so-obvious reasons that you’ll uncover while reading). The cast of characters as a whole were very well fleshed-out, so much so that I caught myself trying to choose actors to play them in a film adaptation.
The only very small issue I had with The Glass Kitchen was with its first chapter — it felt a bit rushed, like so many things were happening all at once, and I thought they could have been drawn out just a little bit more. At the same time, though, I got the impression that the Cuthcarts’ family life was fine one minute and then, like dominoes, quickly collapsed in a heap. I imagine Portia’s childhood is well-suited to the cliche, “When it rains, it pours,” and so the idea of going from having a completely intact family to losing everything can feel like going from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds. The jury is still out on that one. The verdict has come in on the rest of the book, though. I noticed some PG-rated elements of Christian Grey in Gabriel; a bit of Grumpy Old Men in one of Portia’s elderly neighbors; a touch of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, of Sweet Valley High fame, in Ariel and Miranda; and a whole lot of Designing Women between Portia and her sisters. Each character carries some kind of unique quirk, and it’s virtually guaranteed that you’ll associate at least some part of yourself with one, if not several, of them.
And the food! Oh, the food…be sure to have a snack on hand while you’re reading, because you’re going to get hungry while reading about all the delicious food Portia prepares! The book features several recipes that you can make at home and channel your inner Portia. (For the record, I’m personally hoping to test the Fried Chicken with Sweet Jalapeno Mustard. It sounds amazing!) Read the book and then get cooking!
So would I recommend this book?
Absolutely! It’s both a fun summer read and a fascinating exploration of some very serious themes. The Glass Kitchen has definitely earned its spot on my list of summer beach reads! Be sure to let me know if you check it out!