Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe, Mary Simses

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe"Don't move, it's not safe!" I heard someone yell, but it was too late. The wooden planks of the dock sagged beneath me and then gave way. Boards splintered, rotted lumber snapped, and I plunged ten feet into the frigid Maine ocean.

"A high-powered Manhattan attorney finds love, purpose, and the promise of a simpler life in her grandmother's hometown. Ellen Branford is going to fulfill her grandmother's dying wish--to find the hometown boy she once loved, and give him her last letter. Ellen leaves Manhattan and her Kennedy-esque fiance for Beacon, Maine. What should be a one-day trip is quickly complicated when she almost drowns in the chilly bay and is saved by a local carpenter. The rescue turns Ellen into something of a local celebrity, which may or may not help her unravel the past her grandmother labored to keep hidden. As she learns about her grandmother and herself, it becomes clear that a 24-hour visit to Beacon may never be enough." 

I heard about this book when it first came out in summer 2013, but didn't get around to reading it until now, courtesy of a review copy sent by the publisher. As one might expect from the plot summary, title, and cover, it's a light, sweet, and purportedly heart-warming read. The marketing heavily emphasizes its supposed similarity to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but although the basic, basic outlines of the book are the same, they're really only very similar if you leave out all the differences. However, the basic outline for both novels is basically the story of an educated, high-powered city girl expanding her horizons in a small, rather isolated town or community. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a light read too, but it's more cast in shadow by the fact that it takes place right after World War II, and the islanders have had to go through a lot. However, both Juliet and Ellen have an almost too perfect fiance, and find something else, something simpler, "truer", in Guernsey and Beacon, respectively. With both books, too, one initially thinks that the fiances aren't too bad, but it's revealed that they definitely have some problems, as opposed to the country person she meets. It's not a particularly good plot line, but it worked for The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, and also for The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe, though not quite as well. This story is much sillier, although it's still about someone reconsidering her entire life after a trip to a small, close-knit place. I would say that this book is vaguely reminiscent of Guernsey, but it certainly lacks much of the pathos of the aforementioned novel because although there is an undercurrent of grief from something that happened sixty years ago, it's not on as big of a scale.

This novel is like Lite fiction. So lite, it was almost too lite. I mean, it was so sweet, and gooey, and it completely romanticized the whole quaint small town thing. Generally, we read about Southern towns being full of malice hidden by honeyed sweetness, but I'm sure it happens in Northeastern towns too, although probably less so. Let's face it, there are some major disadvantages to living in a place like Beacon as opposed to Manhattan, which is where Ellen lives. I know I'd choose Manhattan any day. This really isn't generally my type of book, with the overboard sweetness. It's certainly supposed to be a feel-good read, but I only felt vaguely guilty that I'd actually taken the time to read a book like this. Basically, the title immediately conveys exactly what kind of a book this is.

That said, it's not badly written per se, and it will definitely appeal to some people. The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe is just what it purports to be; it's not anything very literary, and it's hardly an emotional book. It's just about different living styles, and a high-powered person taking the time to actually slow and down and look at things and eat good (if fattening) food. Speaking of which, there were almost too many descriptions of food in the book. I mean, yes, they were mouthwatering, but it was kind of unnecessary and many of the descriptions felt as if the author was just indulging herself; they added seemingly nothing to the story itself.

Nevertheless, I liked the book for it was, and nothing more. If you like this sort of thing, then go ahead: indulge yourself. Read it, enjoy it. It's just not my normal preference. Sometimes, I'm in the mood for something mindless or something sweet. Apparently I wasn't here, or perhaps this book was just a little bit too mindless and sweet. But I did read it pretty quickly, and it was absorbing enough, even if I did roll my eyes a lot.

341 pages.

Rating: ***

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