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The Recipe Box

Review

The Recipe Box

Samantha Mullins has always longed for something bigger and better, beyond the horizon. Specifically, beyond the horizon of the northern Michigan apple orchard and pie bakery that has been the centerpiece of her family’s life for generations. As much as Sam loved growing up on the farm and learning recipes at the elbow of her grandmother, she always wondered if there might be more to life than rolling out pie crust and frying donuts.

So, after turning down a proposal from her high school boyfriend, Sam went out into the big wide world, attending culinary school to become a pastry chef and eventually landing a plum job working for celebrity Chef Dimples, star of reality TV and owner of an Instagram-worthy New York City bakery, oozing with Southern charm. The problem is that the only things Chef Dimples oozes with are insincerity and lies --- certainly not with talent, since he relies on Sam and her fellow pastry chefs to produce the recipes that he fraudulently claims as family heirlooms.

"THE RECIPE BOX is as deliciously satisfying as a slice of slab pie. Book clubs will clamor to put together a pie potluck inspired by the book..."

After Sam decides --- in a particularly dramatic moment that’s practically aired live on national television --- that she’s had enough of Chef Dimples, she abruptly flees New York City and retreats to her family’s orchard. But what does she hope to find there? And what about the boy she left behind in New York City, a charismatic delivery man with entrepreneurial aspirations?

At first, Sam is too ashamed to admit her failure to her family. But before the summer proceeds too far, she begins to trust them again, to share their own stories of missed opportunities and hard choices, and to start to make sense of what her life and career might look like next.

Sam’s present-day story of self-acceptance and self-realization is juxtaposed with accounts of her childhood and youth, as well as with stories from earlier generations, many of which illustrate parallels, outline themes, and demonstrate that Sam is hardly the first woman in the family to face an uncertain future. In addition, there are, of course, wonderful recipes included, delicious down-home, fruit-filled delights that celebrate the natural abundance and seasonal variety on Sam’s family farm.

“Viola Shipman” is the pen name for award-winning memoirist Wade Rouse, who chose his nom de plume to honor his late grandmother. Indeed, his affection for grandmothers --- and for all who pass down beloved family traditions --- shines through on every page. At times, the book may offer some nostalgic overtones, anecdotes that make older generations seem as sweet and simple as a just-picked peach. Nevertheless, THE RECIPE BOX is as deliciously satisfying as a slice of slab pie. Book clubs will clamor to put together a pie potluck inspired by the book --- and it’s a toss-up about which will be tastier: the baked goods or the conversation about this charmingly old-fashioned novel.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on March 23, 2018

The Recipe Box
by Viola Shipman

  • Publication Date: March 20, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250146771
  • ISBN-13: 9781250146779