For readers who savor the culinary charms of the Food Network's Giada De Laurentiis, Paula Deen and the irrepressible Emeril, meeting the heroine of Kate Jacobs' new novel Comfort Food is not unlike breaking bread—or perhaps organic blackberry scones—with an old foodie friend. With the introduction of Augusta "Gus" Simpson, a celebrity chef dreading the prospect of blowing out the candles on her 50th birthday cake, Jacobs has once again crafted a luxuriant yarn of a story, following the success of her debut novel, The Friday Night Knitting Club. "She had an incredibly tiny cell phone," writes Jacobs. "She knew how to send text messages. She still dressed up at Halloween to give out candy. Wasn't that enough to keep maturity at bay?"
Apparently not. Readers find poor Gus tiptoeing around a menacing midlife crisis that cannot be fixed with a shot of Botox or a perky red convertible. The ratings of her venerable cable television show "Cooking with Gusto!" have taken a nosedive, her 20-something daughters, Aimee and Sabrina, are successful, but to their matchmaking mother's dismay, still single, and worst of all, a young Spanish hottie, Carmen Vega, is spicing up the foodie scene with her sexy web cooking show "FlavorBoom." Nonetheless, Gus has no intention of throwing in the kitchen towel. A widow since her 30s (Gus lost her husband in a car accident, and raised their two young daughters single-handedly) she is determined to save her show from the clutches of her nubile nemesis Carmen. Her recipe for this redemption? A handful of lonely hearts, a pinch of forgiveness, a rasher of motherly instincts, a teaspoon of sincerity and a dash of jealousy. Blend all together by creating a new show starring Carmen, Gus and Gus' own family, and mix well.
Comfort Food is good for the heart and soul, serving up a rich pastiche of friendship and motherhood, with a savory side of romance, too.
Karen Ann Cullotta writes from Arlington Heights, Illinois.