It was the cover of Judith Fertig's novel, The Cake Therapist, that first attracted me. When I found out it was a debut by an author who writes cookbooks, I was hooked. And, I wasn't disappointed. Fertig not only writes cookbooks, she creates memorable characters.
Claire "Neely" O'Neil left her marriage and New York City behind to return to Millcreek Valley, a town that made itself a bridal destination. Neely's dream was to open her own bakery, Rainbow Cake. She bought her grandmother's house, opened a bakery with the help of friends, and set out to make her dream come true. And, Neely has something extra to help her with that dream, a gift. She can taste feelings, telling what people need, whether it's a celebration of love, or the opportunity to mourn a loss. She just can't heal herself, and she can't get rid of the bad taste that lingers in her mouth. That's a taste that puzzles her.
While telling Neely's story, Fertig mixes in the story of two sisters, Edie and Olive, called Pickle and Olive, a story from the late thirties and forties. It's an unusual story of the unexpected disappearance of one of the sisters, and a bitter old woman who survives. And, Neely's gift may be part of a healing process.
Fertig's novel isn't the magical story associated with Sarah Addison Allen or Ellery Adams. However, I appreciated Neely, her gift, and her character. She's a woman searching for answers in her own life, but she's kind while she helps others find answers in their own. And, if readers like Neely, they'll appreciate her relationship with her friends and her co-workers. She reaches out to others.
It's hard to let Neely go on with her life without the reader. I want to know what she's doing with her life, her friends, and her brides. The Cake Therapist is just as satisfying, just as comforting as one of Neely's cakes.
Judith Fertig's website is www.judithfertig.com
The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig. Berkley Books. 2015. ISBN 9780425277324 (paperback), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I requested a copy of the book from the publisher.