Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The Christmas Cookie Club
Publisher's Summary. Mark your calendar. It's the Christmas Cookie Club! Every year on the first Monday of December, Marnie and her twelve closest girlfriends gather in the evening with batches of beautifully wrapped homemade cookies. Everyone brings a dish, a bottle of wine and their stories. This year, the stories are especially important. Marnie's oldest daughter has a risky pregnancy. Will she find out tonight how that story might end? Jeannie's father is having an affair with her best friend. Who else knew about the betrayal, and how can that be forgiven or forgotten, even among old friends such as these? Rosie's husband doesn't want children, and she has to decide whether that's a deal breaker for the marriage. Taylor's life is in financial freefall. Each woman, each friend has a story to tell, and they are all interwoven, just as their lives are. On this evening, at least, they can feel as a group the impulses of sisterly love and conflict, the passion and hopefulness of a new romance, the betrayal and disillusionment some relationships bring, the joys and fears of motherhood, the agony of losing a child and above all, the love they have for one another. As Marnie says, the Christmas Cookie Club, if it's anything, is a reminder of delight. The Christmas Cookie Club is about the paths Marnie and her friends have taken, the absolute joy they take in life. Ultimately, The Christmas Cookie Club is every woman's story. Celebrating courage and joy in spite of hard times and honoring the importance of women's friendships and the embracing bonds of community, you'll see yourself and some of the ingredients of your own story.
Review. On the first Monday in October the Supreme Court begins a new session. After a long summer away, the Supremes regroup to hear an array of cases hand selected by the jurists. And while the individual Supremes change over the years, the traditions and rules march on. On the first Monday in December The Christmas cookie club holds its annual party. After a year spent pondering what to make, the cookie members rejoin to share the specially chosen cookies and their stories. And while individual members come and go, the traditions (e.g. no chocolate chip or bar cookies) and the party continues.
As Marnie, the leader of the Christmas cookie club explains:
Twelve of us gather with thirteen dozen cookies wrapped in packages. Homemade of course . . . .
We take turns telling the story of the cookie we have made. Somehow each story is always emblematic of the year. We pass out our packages and donate the thirteenth dozen to our local hospice . . . .
The Christmas cookie club is about giving, not just the yummy morsels we share with our girlfriends and our families but also with people we don’t know who are having a bleak time and might appreciate a wrapped sweet.
Each chapter in The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Pearlman is devoted to one of the twelve club members. The chapters start with a cookie recipe followed by an adversity the woman faced during the year and concludes with a brief history of a cookie ingredient used in the recipe, such as flour, almonds, cinnamon, etc. While this layout is unusual it makes for a rich novel on three levels: interesting recipes; compelling fiction; and fascinating non-fiction.
My main criticism of the novel is that by focusing on a chapter on each member it is often confusing to keep track of twelve different plotlines. Also, because of the need to shift to the next character’s story, I did not bond with any of the characters apart from the narrator Marnie who shares each woman’s story. In addition, some readers may be offended by the strong profanity used in parts of the novel. While other readers looking for light seasonal fare may be troubled by the serious issues the women face (e.g. death, infidelity, financial disaster, cancer, betrayal).
Overall, The Christmas Cookie Club captures the true spirit of the season: the importance of good friends and family to see one through life’s trials and rejoice in the blessings.
Publisher: Atria (October 20, 2009), 288 pages
Advance Review Copy Provided Courtesy of the Publisher.