The Cookbook Collector
by Allegra Goodman
by Allegra Goodman
Sisters Emily and Jess lost their mother when at a young age. Now as adults they’ve chosen completely different life styles. Emily is the co-founder of a successful dotcom business. Jess is an eternal student, working in a bookstore and campaigning for eco rights in Berkley.
The characters and premise are interesting, but the problem is Goodman can’t decide whose story she wants to tell. She starts with the two sisters, but she quickly gets side tracked by their friends, family, lovers, co-workers at the dotcom company and bookstore, etc. Soon she’s juggling so many story lines that it’s hard to care about any of them. Just as you would get interested in one plot, the story would abruptly switch over to a completely unrelated group of people.
We kept leaving the sisters’ stories and going into everyone else’s lives. First it was Emily’s boyfriend Jonathan and his dotcom company with his friend Orion. Then it was Orion’s crush on a co-worker, then Jess’ new boss George, then a rabbi that Jess meets; you see how things could get a bit muddled.
I also was not a fan of the title. One of the many subplots follows a woman who is selling her deceased uncles’ rare collection of cookbooks, but that wasn’t even one of the main story lines. It made me think the book was about a homemaker and her love for baking or something and I don’t think it fit the book at all.
Frankly I think I would have enjoyed the entire book a lot more if the software companies’ plots had been completely axed. The most interesting story lay with Jess (not her tree hugging tendencies) and her relationship with her sister, the bookstore where she worked and George. Unfortunately there were too many distracting subplots. I think it would have made a better short story collection. There were some wonderful characters, they just needed their own space to shine.
BOTTOM LINE: It was off to a good start, but the novel loses itself when it tries to tell too many stories at once. I would be willing to try something else by the author in the hopes that her future work is a bit more focused.