Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Book Review #48: CHERRIES IN WINTER by Suzan Colon

by Suzan Colón

Pub. Date: November 03, 2009
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Format: Hardcover, 224pp
ISBN-13: 9780385532525
ISBN: 0385532520

Description (from the publisher):
What is the secret to finding hope in hard times?

When Suzan Colón was laid off from her dream job at a magazine during the economic downturn of 2008, she needed to cut her budget way, way back, and that meant home cooking. Her mother suggested, “Why don’t you look in Nana’s recipe folder?” In the basement, Suzan found the tattered treasure, full of handwritten and meticulously typed recipes, peppered with her grandmother Matilda’s commentary in the margins. Reading it, Suzan realized she had found something more than a collection of recipes—she had found the key to her family’s survival through hard times.

Suzan began re-creating Matilda’s “sturdy food” recipes for baked pork chops and beef stew, and Aunt Nettie’s clam chowder made with clams dug up by Suzan’s grandfather Charlie in Long Island Sound. And she began uncovering the stories of her resilient family’s past. Taking inspiration from stylish, indomitable Matilda, who was the sole support of her family as a teenager during the Great Depression (and who always answered “How are you?” with “Fabulous, never better!”), and from dashing, twice-widowed Charlie, Suzan starts to approach her own crisis with a sense of wonder and gratitude. It turns out that the gift to survive and thrive through hard times had been bred in her bones all along.

Cherries in Winter is an irresistible gem of a book. It makes you want to cook, it makes you want to know your own family’s stories, and, above all, it makes you feel rich no matter what.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars -- Highly recommended - and quick, too!

My Thoughts:
You've heard the expression "Good things come in small packages." Well, CHERRIES IN WINTER by Suzan Colón is a delightfully good little book. At a diminutive 5 x 7.5 inches, it fits nicely in your hands and just feels good to hold. However, it's what's inside the package that really counts, and from the opening lines of the preface to the last few words of the acknowledgments, this little book is a feast of family fortitude. (I know, I've got to lay off the alliteration.) Colón's family members are by turn plucky, quirky, spunky, funny, hardy, and inspirational. I really wish I knew them. You'll wish so, too.

In an effort to trim her budget after being laid off, Suzan Colón digs out her grandmother's recipe folder from storage. Inside, she doesn't just find instructions for creating hardy and inexpensive meals. She finds a time capsule that introduces her not only to her grandmother who died when Colón was young but also to her great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother. Some of my favorite parts of the book were the brief glimpses into the daily lives of ordinary women over the course of the last hundred or so years.

One of the main principals to which Colón aspires is to be able to live frugally without being miserly. To achieve that requires mindfulness of one's choices and an appreciation for the gifts of mere existence. She conveys this beautifully in the little vignette from which the book derives its title. Believe me when I say I will most likely never eat cherries again without thinking of Manhattan.

I loved this book. When I give a book 5 out of 5 stars, it has to be more than really good. It has to have the "WOW! Factor." It's hard to define the WOW! Factor. It's a feeling of awe that comes over me as I'm reading a book. If that feeling is sustained throughout the entire book, it's a WOW! What made me say WOW! as I read this little book is that the author writes with a precision and economy that makes every word count. She manages to amuse and inspire as well as give us a little social history all while telling simple entertaining stories of her family. Just as CHERRIES IN WINTER is about how to economize while not feeling deprived, Suzan Colón's memoir provides us with a feast in just a few little bites.  

Click here to visit the author's website.

About the author (from the publisher):
Suzan Colón is a contributing writer and editor for O, The Oprah Magazine. Her articles have appeared in Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Rolling Stone, Details, and other magazines. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, Nathan.


Mystica said...

I loved your review of this book and the fact that you gave it top marks means that its really very, very good.

Zibilee said...

I have heard mixed things about this book, so I am glad to know that you thought it was such a good read! I may have to try it now!

Marie said...

Wow great review. The book sounds really good. I adore the cover.

bermudaonion said...

Holy cow! It sounds like I need to pull this book out and start it right now!