Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Summer Kitchen review and some thoughts on money

I did not grow up rich, money-wise. My father died when my brother and I were only 7 and 9, leaving just my mother to raise us, working long hours as a waitress. We never just had money to go out and buy a new car or go to the movies all the time. I got a job the month I turned 16, just to help pay for my cheerleading uniforms and soccer cleats, and eventually to work my way through college. I have what seems like a million dollars in school loans, but to me, that's just the way it's supposed to be. I didn't know many people that didn't lead a life very similar to mine or had everything they ever wanted, so the idea of being "rich" with money, is somewhat of a foreign concept to myself and the people I surrounded myself with growing up.

Obviously, gotten older since then and moved around a bit, I know that I grew up as lower middle class, but have since seen people live with both less than I had and a whole lot more than I had. Never, however, have I seen what was described in Karen Weinreb's The Summer Kitchen. Beautifully written, it disgusted me, because I know this is really how some people live their lives, every day. Some hating your family because you have more money, despising your family when you have less. It's truly a horrible circle that seems to flood the big cities of our country, and Weinreb has captured that in a heart wrenching, but so-very-honest way.

Our main character, Nora, is married to an incredibly successful businessman that has provided her with an huge, beautiful home, delightful children, and an "in" with all the other Bedford families, simply for the amount of money he makes. She doesn't enjoy the nastiness of her "friends" towards others less fortunate than themselves, but she partakes, as that is what a Bedford wife does.

When she answers the door one morning and finds a team of FBI agents waiting to take her husband away for a white collar crime, she knows that she has lost everything. Not only do these people take her husband, but they eventually come to clean out her house of all the beautiful furnishings and accessories. And she has no money to her name and because of that, no friends.

The only person Nora can trust is her children's nanny, Beatriz, with whom she forms an amazing bond. Beatriz believes in Nora and knows she can makes the lives of her children wonderful, if she'll only let go of the monetary issues. The two women raise the boys together, while Nora goes back to work at a bakery, the one passion she has always held, and attempts to keep her family together, and happy despite all the odds being placed against her and nasty women at every turn.

This first novel was well-written with a very powerful message. All too often we focus on what we want and what we are lacking in our lives to "keep up with the Jones'" when really, all we need to be happy is our family. Nora was able to realize that once her lifestyle was forced to be changed dramatically, but hopefully, through her story, we can all realize what matters most in our lives.

I'll definitely be giving this one out as a gift this holiday season, it was lovely.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

The Summer Kitchen
Karen Weinreb
336 pages
Adult Fiction
St. Martin's Press
July 2009

1 comment:

Holly said...

Great review. This one sounds really good. And I can relate to your story in a way. We had what we needed, but not a lot of extras and I, too, started working at 16. Sometimes I think I missed out on a lot in high school, because I worked as well as went to school, but I think it taught me a lot about responsibility too.

Most people we knew lived like we did. I thought hand-me downs were awesome, and I could see, even then, that in many ways, we were "richer" than other kids I knew who had more money than we did.

This novel sounds fascinating.