No woman dreams of being unceremoniously dumped and moving back in with her mother on the eve of her 40th birthday. Food technician Kate Parker’s first response? Denial, long days under her duvet and bucket loads of cheesy pasta.
A reluctant Kate finds herself volunteering at the Lauderdale House For Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 96-year-old Cecily Finn – spiky and sharp as a pin, but the spark has gone out of her. She has resigned herself to the imminent End.
Having no patience with Kate’s self-pity, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book with a difference – it’s a 1957 cookery manual, featuring menus for anything life can throw at ‘the easily dismayed’. It promises the answers to essential life questions: ‘what shall one give to one’s rich aunt Emma that will be palatable but not prodigal; to one’s husband’s managing director, at once memorable and modest; one’s old love’s new love; the man one hopes will stay on after dinner; the man one hopes will not …‘.
Can Kate find a menu to help a broken-hearted woman let go? If Kate moves forward, might Cecily too?
The cookbook holds the secrets of Cecily’s own remarkable and heartbreaking story, and the love of her life. It will certainly teach Kate a thing or two.
So begins an unlikely friendship between two lonely and stubborn souls – one at the end of her life, and one stuck in the middle – who come to show each other that food is for feasting, life is for living and the way to a man’s heart is . . . irrelevant!
“As far as I can see, you’re doing life all wrong, blundering around like a fart in a pickle barrel.” ~ Miss Cecily
At 96-years-old, Miss Cecily has lived a wonderfully full life. She has loved a man beyond all reason, she has survived a major world war, she’s read a laundry list of books and can quote most of them, she has become an expert cook, she’s a published author, and now she just wants to be left alone in her final years. According to Miss Cecily, her time is coming soon, and she’s going to do and say as she pleases before the end finally, blessedly comes.
Kate Parker is certain she has the perfect life until her boyfriend drops a bomb while away on vacation. After a year and a half together and on the cusp of taking the next step, Kate’s boyfriend has a wobble that sees him returning to life as normal and Kate in a great state of depression and uncertainty. On a whim, and in an effort to combat her loneliness, Kate decides to volunteer her time at the Lauderdale House for Exceptional Ladies. On her first visit, Kate meets – or, more accurately – is verbally attacked by one Miss Cecily. With nothing but venom in her words, Kate is certain she needs nothing to do with Miss Cecily. As it turns out, Kate does need Miss Cecily and once she gets past the crusty exterior and venomous words, she finds a strong, intelligent, kindish, caringish woman who is lonely and needs Kate as much as Kate needs Cecily.
Though Kate isn’t at all sure about any of relationships, she’s certain about one thing: cooking brings her comfort. While talking with Miss Cecily about cooking and comfort foods, Kate discovers Cecily was once an incredible cook. To that end, Miss Cecily loans Kate one of her favorite cookbooks. Little does Kate know that the cookbook, as much as her friendship with Miss Cecily, is going to radically change her life. For weeks, Kate not only carries around the cookbook, but uses it to help herself heal and, hopefully repair her relationship with her currently estranged boyfriend. What Kate doesn’t quite yet understand is that the cookbook and Miss Cecily know more about life and love than Kate can even imagine and if she would just take a step back and really listen to both the words of the cookbook and Miss Cecily, she’ll find not only a life worth living, but an adventure she’s waited a lifetime to have.
The Bottom Line: I absolutely LOVED this book! This is a story of friendship and devotion at its finest and I absorbed every word like a fine meal. Kate’s evolution from start to finish is simply amazing and it never would have happened without the poking and prodding of a crusty old woman with no edit button! I have a soft spot for books featuring crusty old women and men, so Miss Cecily absolutely stole the show for me. With her random yet applicable quotes to her sage advice about life, love, and cooking, Miss Cecily is exactly what Kate needs to help her through what has become the hardest moment of her life. Through tough love, Miss Cecily helps Kate to see what her world really is and how it can be if only she would drum up the courage to make some changes. I loved the give and take between Kate and Miss Cecily, especially towards the end of the book. I won’t say I cried, but a softer heart certainly will, and the tears will be absolutely worth it. In all, I found this book to be enlightening as well as entertaining. A don’t-miss read if I’m being frank, and Miss Cecily would certainly appreciate the frankness 😊