Jacobs's debut novel, THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB, was a
word-of-mouth bestseller, catching on not only among avid knitters
but also among fans of women's literature in general. It's now even
set to become a feature film starring Julia Roberts, which will
release sometime in 2009.
With her second novel, COMFORT FOOD, Jacobs again delves into the
lives and loves of a group of interconnected friends and family.
This time, however, the ending is decidedly less weepy and more,
Augusta (Gus) Simpson is a familiar face to millions of Americans.
She's the star of the longest-running series on the Cooking
Channel, “Cooking with Gusto,” and her face
adorns not only countless television sets but also her own line of
cookware and other household products. But as Gus's fabulous
lifestyle (her TV show is filmed out of the spacious kitchen in her
Westchester manor home) marches on, so does time --- and Gus is
staring 50 squarely in the face. Is it possible that this
energetic, hot mama has left her youth behind her?
It seems that Gus's bosses at the Cooking Channel are asking
themselves the same questions. With a roster of new, hip television
chefs and a handful of new extreme theme programs designed to
appeal to ever-younger viewers, perhaps Gus's show seems a little,
well, old. Can Gus and her friends at the network figure out a new
format that will preserve it from cancellation?
For Gus, the answer to her problems is right under her nose --- at
her kitchen table, in fact. When an unexpected cancellation leaves
Gus scrambling for show guests, she recruits her friends and family
to serve as co-hosts and sous chefs, with humorous, and delicious,
results. This accidental pairing of Gus's closest friends and
family --- including her twenty-something daughters Sabrina and
Aimee, Sabrina's ex-boyfriend Troy, and Gus's painfully reclusive
neighbor Hannah --- with aspiring Cooking Channel host (and former
Miss Spain) Carmen Vega leads to a new hit show…and plenty of
tension. As the guests come together at Gus's table, tempers flare,
tensions mount, and there's plenty of time for everyone to discover
not only delicious food but also new truths about themselves.
At times, COMFORT FOOD can seem like a glimpse into a particularly
fractious group therapy session, as sisters bicker with each other
(and their mother), as former lovers try to become friends, as
jealous co-workers negotiate professional boundaries, and as at
least one woman tries to overcome her past mistakes. Jacobs
successfully balances these somewhat tiresome exchanges, however,
by offering numerous flashbacks into each character's past,
providing much-needed character development that can help gain
readers' sympathy for these sometimes prickly individuals.
Gus herself is a winning character, and readers will be cheering
for this mature, lively heroine to achieve both professional and
personal success --- which may even include love, an ingredient
that's been missing from Gus's life since her husband's death years
before. Happy endings and a mid-life shot at romance will leave
readers of COMFORT FOOD satisfied but looking forward to another
helping of feel-good women's fiction from Kate Jacobs.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on December 28, 2010