The Cookbook Collector is a novel by Allegra Goodman that I have been waiting to read. Lucky me that it was just sitting on the library shelf when I visited a few weeks ago. However, when people ask me what it is about, I have a hard time coming up with a good synopsis. When I started reading, I thought the book was going to be about two sisters, Emily and Jessamine. And it is. But it is also about the people that they encounter and care about in their lives. Emily and Jessamine grew up with their father. Their mother passed away when Jess was just five, and Emily was ten. Each year on their birthday they are given a letter that their mother wrote for them prior to their death. While Emily seems to take their mother's words to heart, Jess does not take her advice as quickly. Set in Berkley, Jess takes up with a tree hugger type, getting a job at a bookstore. George the bookstore owner finds Jess fascinating, irritating, impossible to ignore. Meanwhile, Emily takes a more conventional route, climbing the corporate ladder, making millions then losing it all when the dot.com bubble burst. The events of 9/11 change Emily's life forever, and Jess becomes the sister who assumes the role of caregiver, helping Emily through her personal crisis. There is so much more to this book that this synopsis doesn't even touch on. The romance between George and Jessamine. The secret history of Emily and Jess' mother. The relationship the girls have with their father. The other people in Emily's life- her co-workers- who are affected by 9/11. The cookbook collection that draws George and Jessamine closer. This book is multi-faceted and I struggled to give friends a synopsis when they asked what I was reading, and I struggle now a day after finishing this book to develop a synopsis to do this one justice.
The Cookbook Collector was an absorbing read and a great women's fiction selection. I expect I will be hearing of many book clubs discussing this one in the future.