Opening with Holly Maguire musing about her fortune as told by her late grandmother, this book is a solid and satisfying confection, a tiramisu of a book, if you will. According to Holly's Milanese grandmother, renowned both for her delicious Italian cooking and for her fortune-telling, the great love of Holly's life will be a man who likes sa cordula, a traditional dish made from lamb intestines. It is this fortune that sent a heartbroken Holly running back to Blue Crab Island, Maine from California. She felt her long-time boyfriend slipping away and so she fixed him sa cordula, which he loathed, only reinforcing the fact that he was not her great love. So Holly returned to her grandmother and the love and acceptance she has always found with Camilla Constantina. Cruelly, Holly only has two weeks with her beloved grandmother before Camilla passes away, leaving Holly crushed and floundering. To honor her grandmother's memory and legacy, Holly determines that she will take over Camilla's Cuchinotta and teach the Italian cooking classes for which Camilla was famous. The big problem with this is that Holly can't cook. But she has her grandmother's recipes, a load of determination, and four students who didn't immediately demand their money back when Holly told them the news about Camilla's death. And to start with, that suffices.
Holly's four students are hurting as much in their own ways as Holly is. And together all of them need a little of the magic that always pervaded Camilla's Cuchinotta to help them realize that they are the architects of their own lives. Each of the secondary characters is well fleshed out and their individual back stories have a chance to be highlighted as the main plot with Holly opening up and learning to risk love again moves along. Each story is a vital ingredient and each secondary character helps Holly to recognize things about herself and where she wants to go in life. Cooking with all the triumphs and failures that are a part of learning to trust oneself in the kitchen is celebrated here. And Holly makes some pretty amazing sounding dishes once she starts getting things right, in the kitchen and in her personal life. There are occasional places where the lessons learned are a little overdone or saccharine but for the most part, they hit the right note. The ending is a little tidy for a book celebrating the vagaries of life and acceptance of all its parts, sad, happy, and true all in similar measure but over all, the book works and is ultimately the sort of read that leaves the reader smiling and satisfied. A quick and fulfilling read, I'd recommend this one (and I'd also recommend reading it close to your kitchen or a good restaurant because it will make you hungry).
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.