Thursday, April 8, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman

 It felt like time to read a charming contemporary novel, so I chose Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman.

Kate Parker is a going-on-forty single woman who has finally found the man she wants to spend her life with. Her boyfriend Nick is a handsome, good-natured man who shares her love of food and cooking, her sense of humor, and her enjoyment of lazing about. He works in IT and is a stereotypical computer geek, but she convinces herself that his emotional stuntedness is a result of absent parents. She can see how self-centered he is, but she loves him. And she really doesn’t want to hit that fortieth birthday alone. 

Kate’s life revolves around food. She loves to cook and to eat. Her job, at a grocery store, is to write the bits of copy on the signs to sell food items. She hates the job, but has been at it for 20 years and is afraid to quit.

Several months prior to the big birthday, Nick suggests that they move in together. Kate is thrilled. The next week, they depart on a long-planned vacation to France. There, he drops a bomb. He wants to step back. He is definitely NOT ready to commit.

Devastated and furious, she refuses to just go back to how things were. They have to take a break from each other until he figures out what he wants.

To fill time and feel useful, she starts to volunteer at a retirement home. There she meets Cecily Finn. This feisty but painfully lonely woman is ninety-seven years old and has no patience for the other elderly women in the home. At first, she has no patience for Kate, either. Kate has come armed with cooking demonstrations and Cecily heckles her. Kate has enough to deal with without a nasty old woman being mean to her, but Kate is so innately kind, and so in need of a project, that she takes on the task of visiting Cecily to draw her out.

Over time, they achieve a sort of truce. Cecily lends Kate a book from her overstuffed shelves, called Thought for Food. It’s a cookbook full of menus planned around themes, such as “Tea for a Crotchety Aunt” or “Dinner with the Man You Hope to Marry.” The book cheers Kate and, inspired by the themes, Kate begins to re-evaluate her life, her job, her friendships, and Nick. She grows close to Cecily and comes to value her friendship and advice. In turn, she eases Cecily’s loneliness and gives her a sense of purpose once more.

This is a quick, sweet story. The menus are cute and it’s engrossing to read about Kate’s cooking efforts. There are no actual recipes, which is just as well, because the cooking sounds too exhausting to attempt. Kate is a kind, sympathetic character, an easy-to-cheer-for protagonist. This was just the read I was looking for.

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