Monday, August 29, 2016
The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
Miller's opening sentence invites the reader into Olivia Rawlings' story. "The night I lit the Emerson Club on fire had been perfect for making meringue." Following the pastry chef's eye-opening disaster, her natural reaction is to flee. She ends up at her best friend's house in Guthrie, Vermont, and before Livvy can even recover from her hangover, she's offered a trial as the new baker at Margaret Hurley's Sugar Maple Inn. First, she has to pass a test by making an apple pie. Then, she's asked to make a one-year commitment because Margaret wants to win back her spot as the blue ribbon apple pie winner at the county fair.
Vermont may seem like a strange departure for a woman who had been working in Boston. But, something in the landscape calls to Livvy. And, then there's the music. She plays banjo, and is invited to sit in with a local group. And, once she meets fiddler Martin McCracken and his large family, Livvy dreams of what she's never had, a family. Martin's father, Henry, teaches her to play the dulcimer. The McCrackens, the baking at the Sugar Maple Inn, the music, everything leads to a contentment Livvy has never felt before. But, contentment doesn't always last in the face of memories from the past. And, once again, Livvy's natural reaction is to flee.
Olivia Rawlings narrates The City Baker's Guide to Country Living. At thirty-two, she's still a little reckless, a woman who grew up without a mother in her life. She lost her father as a teenager. It's made her a little edgy, aware of her own flaws. She's an outsider who moves to Guthrie, and can see the problems with the closeness of the community. Everyone knows everyone's business, and, if they don't, they make up rumors. But, she's also envious of the closeness of community and family.
Miller's debut novel is a character-driven story involving secrets and the long memories of small town residents. It's an atmospheric story that depicts Vermont in all its beauty. And, the music is such an essential element in creating the atmosphere. Most of all, it's a satisfying account of a woman's homecoming to a home she never had, and the acceptance she always wanted.
The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller. Pamela Dorman Books/Viking. 2016. ISBN 9781101981207 (hardcover), 340p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.