The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee was pretty good. It’s the story of a woman from Texas who moves to New York. She’s just gotten divorced and it seems like a typical story of renewal. However, Portia is special. She has what is referred to in her family as “The Knowing.” She knows what food people will need and can cook it perfectly. It’s kitchen magic.
Magical realism as a genre has a tendency to lean toward the kitchen, because cooking is a kind of magic all its own. I love these kind of books. However, I felt a little deceived with The Glass Kitchen because it is advertised as a book about sisters, and it’s not. It’s a book about Portia and a little girl named Ariel. Her sisters are certainly apart of the story, but it’s about Portia and her love life and her self-discovery. And Ariel and her self-discovery. So I was disappointed at the lack of sisterhood.
Portia’s love life is a little strange. She has a very intense affair with the man upstairs, who hires her as a cook, and ends up being a liar and emotionally unavailable. In the end, he comes to his senses and begs her to return to his life. Which she does, naturally. I wasn’t his biggest fan, but it wasn’t the worst love story I’ve ever read.
Ariel’s story was interesting and the unexpected part of the story. She’s a smart 12-year-old who acts as a sort of undercover sleuth to discover parts of her mom’s past (her mom is dead). She conspires to get her dad and Portia together (and does it pretty damn well) and manages to conquer her fear of cars. She deals with her sister’s attitude and her dad’s negligence pretty well and is a trooper over all. Her story has the plot twist, not Portia’s.
There have been a few reviews that said they didn’t like the back and forth between Portia’s point of view and Ariel’s point of view, but I actually liked it. It was refreshing to go from teenage angst to adult angst. You didn’t have to deal with too much of one type of drama.
Overall, I’d rate this as a quick jolt of sugar. Nothing like dark chocolate, but maybe like Sour Patch Kids. Or a soda. Nice, refreshing even, but nothing to write home about.
(Linda Francis Lee is no Sarah Addison Allen.)