Sunday, April 23, 2017

Living in a Book’s World

Do you ever finish a book and find you’re not only sad to leave it but you’re reluctant to leave the world created in the book? That has happened to me tonight. I just finished Ruth Reichl’s Delicious, her first and as far as I know only novel.

I meant to work all weekend. I had a lot I was going to get done, mostly editing a novella. If I had applied myself I might be almost through with it tonight. But yesterday, seduced by Saturday’s delicious laziness, I spent most of the day reading the novel. Today I went to church and did some household chores, a bit of cooking, but every other minute, I read Delicious.

Confession: at first I wasn’t drawn into this book. Through most of Book One, which details a young girl coming to New York looking for a writing job and lucking into an interview with an old and revered food magazine. The editor sends her on a deliberate wild goose chase, during which she discovers many wonderful tastes, the unique small food places of New York, some unusual and distinctive characters—and demonstrates that she has a remarkable palate, able to distinguish subtle flavors in almost any food. Okay, so much so good but where is it going in the rest of the novel?

In Book Two, she discovers a cache of correspondence during WWII from a thirteen-year-old girl in Akron, Ohio, to iconic American chef James Beard.  Clearly Beard held up his part of the correspondence, because his suggestions, recipes, and ideas are referred to. The letters are lively, and the readers comes to believe Lulu is a real person, her mother and boyfriend only a little less so, and then there’s the father, missing in action. You can’t help but be embroiled in the story.

It would be a spoiler to reveal too much about Book Three, but it brings together wonderfully intriguing threads—not only food. The Underground Railroad, WWII, romance, architecture, transformation, forgiveness and acceptance. All those things floating through the book are made clear in surprising ways.

So tonight I find myself reluctant to start another book, though the stack on my desk is high. Editing my own work? I’ll dig into that tomorrow, but tonight I’m still floating in Lulu’s world.

Delicious by Ruth Reichl—find it, read it, and then try some of her nonfiction food books. She’s addictive.

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