Book Review: "The Recipe Club" by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel

Lilly and Val are lifelong friends, united as much by their differences as by their similarities. Lilly, dramatic and confident, lives in the shadow of her beautiful, wayward mother and craves the attention of her distant, disapproving father. Val, shy and idealistic—and surprisingly ambitious— struggles with her desire to break free from her demanding housebound mother and a father whose dreams never seem to come true.

In childhood, "LillyPad" and "ValPal" form an exclusive two-person club, writing intimate letters in which they share hopes, fears, deepest secrets—and recipes, from Lilly's "Lovelorn Lasagna" to Valerie's "Forgiveness Tapenade." Readers can cook along as the friends travel through time facing the challenges of independence, the joys and heartbreaks of first love, and the emotional complexities of family relationships, identity, mortality, and goals deferred.

The Recipe Club sustains Lilly and Val's bond through the decades, regardless of what different paths they take or what misunderstandings threaten to break them apart . . . until the fateful day when an act of kindness becomes an unforgivable betrayal.

Now, years later, while trying to recapture the trust they've lost, Lilly and Val reunite once more—only to uncover a shocking secret. Will it destroy their friendship, or bring them ever closer?

When I first picked up this book, I honestly did not know what to expect. Then I flipped through the book and saw that the story was written through emails, letters, newspaper clippings, illustrations and lots and lots of recipes. I began to be intrigued as I love stories that are told through correspondence as opposed to a more traditional method. I find that stories written that way tend to be read a lot faster and can be more enjoyable as you feel like you get sucked more into the story.

The story focuses around the friendship of two women and their relationship since childhood. Told through their letters and recipes, the reader learns how the women became friends, experienced life together and then the circumstances in their life to cause them to drive apart from each other. It's a wonderful glimpse of not only their lives but the culture of the time period as the story takes place from the 1960s to present day. It's really interesting seeing the characters grow up and change, as they start off as young girls and mature into women.

I will admit that there were times in the book where I didn't like both characters. Lilly comes off as brash and arrogant at times. I also couldn't figure out why Val would want to stay friends with her after Lily insults her at several points in their friendship. Also with the tension between Lilly and her father, Val sometimes seems as if she's rubbing her friendship with Lilly's dad back in Lilly's face. I also did not like Lilly's mom. I don't want to pass judgment on people but it was obvious that she never really wanted to be married or to be a mother in the first place and it showed throughout her life and how she treated her family. Seriously there were major communication problems between both families.

The recipes in the book look easy to make and sound absolutely delicious. I really like how a lot of the titles of the recipes tied into the story. Seriously I got really hungry while reading this book and had a craving to cook after I finished. The illustrations in this book are really nice too and add to the story. There is some slight cursing and talk about sex in the book (one letter asks and answers what it was like about the first time, actually that was quite humorous). Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. Don't be daunted at all by the size as most of the book is recipes. It's an extremely fast read and you really get sucked into the story. I have the sudden urge to go start cooking every recipe in this book or find a recipe club of my own. If you love a good story and food, this is the perfect book for you.

The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel is published by Harper (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher


  1. I really liked this book too. It was a great story told in a fun way. Your review is great too!


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