The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee (Review)

On the front cover of my hard copy of this book is the subtitle: “a novel of sisters” which attracted me right away. I was waiting for the publishing date eagerly, because it seemed right up my alley- sisters (one of whom has semi-magical powers) working and opening up a restaurant together in NYC. I follow Linda Francis Lee on Facebook, she has a really entertaining author page with lots of giveaways, and while none of her books had jumped out at me in the past, this one was intriguing to me.

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From Amazon: “Portia Cuthcart never intended to leave Texas. Her dream was to run the Glass Kitchen restaurant her grandmother built decades ago. But after a string of betrayals and the loss of her legacy, Portia is determined to start a new life with her sisters in Manhattan . . . and never cook again. But when she moves into a dilapidated brownstone on the Upper West Side, she meets twelve-year-old Ariel and her widowed father Gabriel, a man with his hands full trying to raise two daughters on his own. Soon, a promise made to her sisters forces Portia back into a world of magical food and swirling emotions, where she must confront everything she has been running from. What seems so simple on the surface is anything but when long-held secrets are revealed, rivalries exposed, and the promise of new love stirs to life like chocolate mixing with cream. The Glass Kitchen is a delicious novel, a tempestuous story of a woman washed up on the shores of Manhattan who discovers that a kitchen—like an island—can be a refuge, if only she has the courage to give in to the pull of love, the power of forgiveness, and accept the complications of what it means to be family.”

I enjoyed this book, it was a fast and easy read for me, and I loved the descriptions of food and how it fit into the plot. Portia has the Cuthcart family gift for her generation, called “the knowing,” and it basically means thoughts of food, very specific food, pops into her head at any given time. She will feel compelled to make whatever she’s thought of, and it always turns out to be exactly what’s needed before she could have known it. For example, she has a cake come to her, she bakes it, and it turns out that it’s someone’s birthday. I thought that was very clever, and the author did a great job describing the meals.

I also liked that the names of the female characters were Shakespearean – Portia, Cordelia, Olivia, Ariel, and Miranda. Each character had something about her that echoed back to her Shakespearean predecessor – Ariel is mischievous, Cordelia is steadfast and loyal, Olivia is juggling various boyfriends, never settling down.

At the same time though, I almost felt like the book was too short, and there were parts of the story unexplored. For a novel with the subtitle “a novel of sisters” there was surprisingly a lack of character development for Portia’s two sisters, Cordelia and Olivia. The book ended and I felt that their characters in particular were unexplored. I realize it’s Portia’s story more than anything, but it just felt somehow incomplete to me. The ending also seemed very abrupt as well. I didn’t connect very well with the love story of the book, between Portia and Gabriel. I felt like the connections were between Portia and his daughter Ariel.

In the end, it was a solid fast read, I enjoyed it well enough. It probably won’t be one of my favorite books of the summer, but it’s a fun one anyway.

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