February is almost over, and I’ve only finished three books so far. Except for the Mermaids of Lake Michigan by Suzanne Kamata, which I devoured in two sittings, I find myself trudging through every book I pick up. Take for example the Memory of Lemon by Judith Fertig- it’s a relatively short book with 288 pages, but I spent nearly a month reading it. Don’t get me wrong. There were aspects of this book that were engaging and beautifully written. But, there were also aspects of this book that I felt disconnected from, and indifferent.
This book felt a little cozy
As in, if you added a thrilling murder and a pet cat, you’d have a cozy mystery novel. I suspect it was the introduction of the main character, Neely, who is in the process of divorcing her cavorting pro-football husband and starting fresh in her old hometown in southwest Ohio– a world away from posh NYC, which is where she lived prior. (What cozy mystery doesn’t start out with the main character arriving in a small town after leaving a husband or a long-time boyfriend?)
She has also recently opened her own bakery called Rainbow Cakes, so you better believe your tummy will be grumbling throughout. If you’re a foodie or a baker, I’m sure you’ll love reading about all of Neely’s delicious baked goods! Plus, Rainbow Cakes is the perfect setting to meet all of the locals, like rough-around-the-edges Jett, Neely’s bakery assistant, and the bashful professor, who has his heart set on Maggie, Neely’s emotionally guarded waitress.
I wasn’t sure if Neely’s gift was supernatural or synesthesia
My favorite aspect of this book is how Neely can connect emotions and memories to certain flavors. I thought she was a synesthetic at first, and perhaps she is. Still, her gift teeters on the edge of the supernatural because she can experience feelings and memories of her ancestors. Fertig’s writing springs to life every time Neely experiences the past, and readers are treated to rich imagery of life in the Ohio River Valley during the 1800s.
But…I’d rather read about Neely’s past than her present
The part of the novel I feel indifferent about is Neely’s present, specifically the conflicts she has to overcome in her love life. Unlike Neely’s baked goods, Neely is kind of a bland character, and I had a hard time connecting with her. As for the conflict…it had potential. Neely is trying to divorce her football star husband, who doesn’t seem quite ready to let her go despite his debaucherous behavior. She especially wants to expedite the process because she’s falling in love with one of her best friends. She has to be careful though because there is a clause in the prenuptial agreement that could mean financial ruin if it’s determined Neely is being unfaithful. Fertig lets this conflict simmer throughout the novel; I wanted the pot to come to a full boil, but Fertig removes it from the burner before it had a chance, and I was left feeling kind of let down.
That being said…the wedding Neely and her team are planning was totally my dream wedding!!!
Perhaps my timing was off
The Memory of Lemon by Judith Fertig teeters right on the edge of being a fluffy, contemporary novel, which is best devoured during a summer afternoon sitting on the back deck, soaking up the sun, not during the throes of winter while buried under blankets.
The Memory of Lemon by Judith Fertig
Released: June 2016
Age Group: Adult
[goodreads | indiebound]
A crisp tang of citrus that is at once poignant and familiar, sharpening the senses and opening the mind to possibilities once known and long forgotten…
Claire “Neely” Davis is no ordinary pastry chef. Her flavor combinations aren’t just a product of a well-honed palate: she can “taste” people’s emotions, sensing the ingredients that will touch her customers’ souls. Her gift has never failed her—until she meets a free-spirited bride-to-be and her overbearing society mother. The two are unable to agree on a single wedding detail, and their bickering leaves Neely’s intuition frustratingly silent—right when she needs it most.
Between trying to navigate a divorce, explore a new relationship, and handle the reappearance of her long-absent father, Neely is struggling to make sense of her own conflicting emotions, much less those of her hard-to-please bride. But as she embarks on a flavorful quest to craft the perfect wedding celebration, she’ll uncover a family history that sheds light on both the missing ingredients and her own problems—and illustrates how the sweet and sour in life often combine to make the most delicious memories…