Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee

We're almost halfway through the year, and I just discovered one of the books that will probably go on my best of 2014 list. Linda Francis Lee drew me in, first with the beautiful cover of the book, and then with the first sentence of  The Glass Kitchen. She never lost my attention. With that sentence, she wraps a reader into Portia Cuthcart's world.

"On the morning her sister went missing, Portia Cuthcart woke up to thoughts of blueberries and peaches." Portia was only seven, but she had inherited her Gram's gift, "the knowing". She knew just what foods to make to make people feel better, what foods they needed, although she didn't always know why she prepared the food, or who was intended to receive it. Portia's gift showed her two older sisters, Cordelia and Olivia, leaving her for New York City, brought a man into Portia's life, and showed her Gram when her time was up. But, Portia turned her back on The Glass Kitchen, the family restaurant. She didn't remember that her life there saved her after her parents' death. She saw "the knowing" only as an indication of tragedy, and she turns her back on her gift. She could try to shut it out, but a gift doesn't go away.

When Portia finally flees to New York, escaping her life in west Texas, her sisters point out her problem. She never should have turned her back on "the knowing". Even when she moves into the apartment her aunt left her, she fights against it. But, a twelve-year-old girl upstairs needed Portia's gift. Ariel, daughter of Gabriel Kane, felt as if she was disappearing after her mother's death. Her older sister, Miranda, was angry that their father moved them to the city, and she acted out. And, Gabriel, a powerful businessman, was drowning in his lack of knowledge of his daughters. Portia might have wanted to fight the gift, but it's hard to back away when people need what you can offer. And, everyone seems to need Portia, from her sisters to the Kane family.

Linda Francis Lee's novel is for all of us who love magical realism novels about food and family. Her book is beautiful in its descriptions. "If Olivia was like a decadent chocolate-covered strawberry, and Portia a pineapple-and-spice hummingbird cupcake, then Cordelia was peanut brittle, still sweet, though with something more substantial added by way of peanuts, but unbendable." It's a story of love of family, of food. It's the story of a passionate woman who has long denied herself, her passion, and her gift for life and sharing it with others. The Glass Kitchen is a novel about lost people finding hope and a future.

I was lured into Linda Francis Lee's novel by a stunning cover. But, I was swept up into a magical story that stimulated the senses, and enticed me to turn pages. You'll want to linger in Portia Cuthcart's world, The Glass Kitchen, for a luscious six-course meal of longing and love.

Linda Francis Lee's website is

The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee. St. Martin's Press. 2014. ISBN 9781466850613 (hardcover), 384p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Beth Hoffman said...

I have this book on my list and am glad to know that you enjoyed it!

Lesa said...

Loved it, Beth, and it reminds me of you. I think you'll like it.

Reine said...

This sounds just beautiful, Lesa! I've never hear the term "magical realism" before. Is that a term for a genre I missed, or did you simply use it because it suited the book's nature? It truly sounds wonderful.

Lesa said...

Reine, No. Magical realism is a genre. Here's what Wikipedia says. "Magical realism is a genre where magic elements are a natural part in an otherwise mundane, realistic environment.[1] Although it is most commonly used as a literary genre, magic realism also applies to film and the visual arts." Also, 'The term is broadly descriptive rather than critically rigorous: Professor Matthew Strecher defines magic realism as "what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe."' It actually originated in Latin America, but women's fiction includes elements, particularly authors such as Alice Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen. The elements are a little less in this book, but "the knowing" is definitely part of the genre.

Reine said...

Thanks for the explanation, Lesa. Excellent! Love the sound of it!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Reine. Always willing to introduce someone to a genre I enjoy.