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Book Notes: Recipe for a Charmed Life

As I type these words, I’m watching the rain/snow come down out of a grey sky and thinking how good it is that so many different books exist. I can choose if I want to complement the day or season, or if I want something to take me away. I’ll have something for you cold-lovers soon, but for today, I’ve got the perfect read to immerse you in the smells of the kitchen and the beauty of the San Juan Islands: local author Rachel Linden’s latest novel, Recipe for a Charmed Life.

We begin in Paris, the city of Julia Child’s culinary heart, where American chef Georgia May Jackson is on the brink of getting the only thing she’s ever wanted: a restaurant of her own. But when a shocking betrayal causes Georgia to snap at the worst possible time, it appears as though she’ll lose everything. It’s at this moment that Georgia receives an email from her mother, a woman who left her family decades ago. "Come home," she says, "I have things to tell you about our family." Her mother’s made a home and life on San Juan Island, and Georgia decides to fly to the Pacific Northwest, take the ferry out to San Juan to regroup, and see if anything can be made of the tattered remnants of her restaurant dream. Because it’s not just Georgia’s lapse in professionalism that’s standing in her way; she’s also lost her ability to taste the nuance of flavor. And what’s a chef without her sense of taste?

Rachel’s writing is light of spirit and not lacking in depth. Georgia, and other characters, are at a moment where circumstances force both a reckoning and a reassessing. The things they’ve worked hard for might be nearly within their grasp, but is that still what they want? How have they changed in the pursuit of their goal? How can they make room for their dreams to change with them? What choices have been made out of fear or protectiveness or a misplaced sense of guilt that need to be faced? Anchoring all this self-discovery is the gorgeous depth of her descriptions, from all the delectable food Georgia makes (and eats) trying to recover her palate, to the picturesque San Juan farmhouse her mother lives in, surrounded by gardens and fields and… well, if you can’t take a trip to the San Juans in person, you can take yourself there in the pages of Recipe for a Charmed Life. The hint of magic Rachel sprinkles deftly throughout gives it a touch of wonder and whimsy. And for those of us who like some romance along with introspection, there’s a grumpy oyster farmer just down the way. 

Join us Wednesday, January 31st at 6:30pm to celebrate Rachel Linden and Recipe for a Charmed Life. She’ll be in conversation with me, and knowing Rachel, she’ll bring some delicious treats along! 

— Lori