What happens when a food writer gets dumped from her day job and her husband becomes the art director for the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Lucky readers get yummy novels about cheese, bread, wine, and honey. My dear friend and colleague Kiwi Mary introduced me to New Zealand’s Sarah-Kate Lynch, and I will be forever grateful. My review of her quartet of books kicks off my summer reading palooza which. . .drum-roll, please. . .will culminate with my review of Susan Wiggs’ fabulous Beekeeper’s Ball set to be released on Tuesday.
Elizabeth Gilbert, whose amazing Signature of All Things comes out in paperbook on Tuesday, introduced readers to the delight of photographing and sharing books we love. I agree with Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is in Seattle today to promote her latest book Hard Choices, that Signature of All Things is an extraordinarily memorable book. You can read my earlier review.
Yes, I know. Y’all are shocked that I opted to stay home to write reviews of books written by and about abuse survivors rather than meet Secretary Clinton again. This old girl simply can’t hang like she used to, and I don’t have the energy anymore for a marathon wait for an autograph and photo op.
Blessed Are the Cheesemakers taps into Ms. Lynch’s Irish roots and lives up to its promotion:
. . .an enchanting tale about taking life’s spilled milk and turning it into the best cheese in the world.
Joseph Corrigan and Joseph Feehan ~ Corrie and Fee ~ are aging partners in a cheesemaking enterprise, Coolarney House, in Schillies, County Cork, Ireland:
. . .the Corrigans would provide the cows, the cows would provide the milk, and the Feehans would provide the skills to make cheese. . .Corrigans weren’t cheesemakers?
. . .your grandfather didn’t care for cows. . .Couldn’t stand the creatures. . .He started selling cheese when he was twelve years old so he could afford to pay someone else to deal with the filthy things.
The artisan skill required to make cheese becomes a metaphor for love. With the help of abuse survivor Avis O’Regan, Corrie and Fee shelter unwed mothers who milk the cows while singing lyrics from The Sound of Music. Avis’ daughter Josephine was the first Coolarney baby:
Owen O’Regan. . .followed me here after giving me the hiding of a lifetime. . .I was pregnant. . .ran here for help. . .I pushed him down the stairs because the drunken oaf had belted me for the very last time. . .I would kill him all over again if I had the chance. . .
He wasn’t dead, Avis. . .We gave him £200 an put him on the bus to Limerick.
Corrie and Fee need new blood to continue their legacy. Kit Stephens needs Avis to help him dry out, and Abbey Corrigan needs her grandfather. The damaged soul duo arrive at Coolarney House from opposite ends of the world to save the farm and mend their broken hearts.
Kit Stephens was “ejected” from his job:
He had blown it big time. . .without his career he was nothing. A nobody. Just some great-looking guy from Burlington, Vermont. . .another Wall Street burnout with a drinking problem.
Abbey Corrigan “had a bad run on the husband front” in the Sullivan Islands:
. . .my husband has been sexing my neighbors. . .getting biblical with them. . .having his children. . .in clumps. . .
Had she known as a wide-eyed teenage bride that hand-rinsing her husband’s briefs in an island river would be the highlight of her day, would she have been quite so quick to run to the end of the world with him?
. . .She clung to her love of Martin like a drowning man to an inflatable life raft. . .her husband’s disapproval still hanging in the air even though he had long gone. . .She didn’t belong in this paradise. . .She was nobody. Nowhere. . .daydreaming her life away. That was what drowned out the steady ppppffffsssshhhh of the air escaping the life raft.
Blessed Are the Cheesemakers is a magical blend of humor and love. Ms. Lynch’s characters have experienced betrayal and abuse, and they help each other heal and move on. When I finished the book, I couldn’t wait to read By Bread Alone.
Book Review: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Signature of All Things