This was my first book by Nora Ephron. I had heard good things about her writing and her wit, but hadn’t experienced any of it for myself. Then I stumbled across this audiobook on my Overdrive app, narrated by none other than Meryl Streep. SOLD!
I loved it. I had no idea divorce could be so funny, and of course Streep’s delivery of every line was perfection. Apparently it was also made into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, so now I’m going to have to add that to my watchlist.
The book is about Rachel Samstat, a Jewish food writer from New York City, who has moved to Washington D.C. with her husband to support his career. They have one child together and Rachel is pregnant with their second when she finds out her husband, Mark, is having an affair with Thelma Rice (someone they both know, and who just happens to be married to someone else) and that’s how the book starts.
So then Rachel has to figure out how to deal with it. She decides to confront Mark and expects him to beg her forgiveness, but instead he admits he’s in love with Thelma and wants to pursue a relationship with her and divorce Rachel, which was not at all the reaction she had been expecting.
Rachel is in group therapy and spends a chapter talking about the other people she’s in therapy with, which she’s not supposed to do because it’s supposed to be anonymous, but one of the members is famous and it’s supposedly impossible to describe her without giving away who it is. Since the novel is supposedly largely autobiographical, it makes me wonder if Ephron was in group therapy with a celebrity and the reader is supposed to understand who it is, but since the book was initially published 36 years ago, if the character is modeled after a real celebrity, I didn’t get the reference.
After a while, Mark changes his mind, tells Rachel it’s all over between him and Thelma and that he wants to try and make things work with them. So they try to make a go of it, but Rachel quickly realizes this isn’t going to work, so she decides to take their son and move back to New York City.
The book is peppered with various recipes, and while I have no idea if they’re any good, they certainly sound good. Her comment about what a great comfort food mashed potatoes are made me want to whip up my own batch of mashed potatoes (which have always been a favorite of mine). She also has some insights about food and what it means to prepare food for your family. She’s working through her husband’s affair and trying to determine if there’s anything she could have done differently to prevent it, and she decides she wasn’t attentive enough to her husband, that cooking for him had become a substitute for telling him she loved him. I doubt that’s true, but I can understand the impulse to look for fault in oneself after having discovered your partner is having an affair. Nevertheless, I don’t think her points about food and love are true. In my family we often talk about homemade food as being “made with love,” and being an amateur foodie myself, there was a lot to love in this book.
I can’t recommend this novella enough. It’s short, making it a quick read, and despite the heavy subject, it’s told in such a light way, with so many jokes, that it ended up feeling like a light, summer read.
What did you read/listen to this week? Any other light summer reads I should try?