Author: Karen Weinreb
Publisher: St. Martins Press
ISBN 978-0-312-37925-4

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Baffling sentences, irrelevant detail, loathsome characters, and stilted dialog act as major deterrents to anyone intrigued by the prospect of the riches-to-rags tale The Summer Kitchen’s book jacket promises..

Weinreb’s prose misspeaks for itself.  “They would never have hired her, though, in the circumstances she had, Nora knew.” (p14).  “And she had her hair, she thought, managing to make a little joke about the mess that had become her life; it made her feel there was hope when she could laugh about it.” (p30)  

The novel is narrated through the loathsome Nora in whose oft-expressed self-regard we are expected to share and Beatriz, Nora’s servant.  Betrziz is a poorly-educated recovering alcoholic from Central America, and her thoughts clearly reflect her origins, that is, if like the book’s author, she went to Yale.  “In the last year or two since forty had become closer than thirty-five, the ticking of her clock had begun to feel physical.  She knew exactly now when yet another of her eggs set off from the starting block.”

On the plus side, the novel offers many household hints: When Nora’s kids went out to pick berries, “Their nanny, Betriz, had tried stringing prunes over their little torsos—a technique she had learned as a girl to keep both hands free….”   And I learned that life among the suburban rich is much like life on an army base though with a wife’s place in society being determined by her husband’s income rather than his rank.

To paraphrase Dwight McDonald, this is the sort of book you don’t want to put down until you’re finished, otherwise you’ll never pick it up again. Curl up instead with another riches-to-rags novel, The Good Nanny by Benjamin Cheever.

Click Here To Purchase The Summer Kitchen