Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Debbie Johnson - Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe

The brand new book from best-selling author Debbie Johnson will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you raid the pantry in the middle of the night…
The Comfort Food Cafe is perched on a windswept clifftop at what feels like the edge of the world, serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.
For widowed mum-of-two Laura Walker, the decision to uproot her teenaged children and make the trek from Manchester to Dorset for the summer isn’t one she takes lightly, and it’s certainly not winning her any awards from her kids, Nate and Lizzie. Even her own parents think she’s gone mad.
Her new job at the cafe, and the hilarious people she meets there, give Laura the chance she needs to make new friends; to learn to be herself again, and – just possibly – to learn to love again as well.
For her, the Comfort Food Cafe doesn’t just serve food – it serves a second chance to live her life to the full…

Comment: This book was a Christmas' gift and since I didn't want it to linger for too long in the pile - also to make the person who gave it to me realize I was serious about reading it - I decided to read it already. Yes, a bit unfair for all those other poor books in the TBR list...

In this book we meet widow Laura and her two children and how they decide to keep up with the holiday tradition of their family even after the death of David, Laura's husband. Although all miss him a lot, they know it's necessary to move on. 
Laura replies to a want notice for a job cooking in a cafe in Dorset and she is the one chosen, so Laura plans to go from Manchester to Dorset to work there for the summer and to allow her children to have a different time. The people they all find, however, do make a lasting impression and it seems Laura realizes she is ready to live again. But will the little things let her be herself again?

This is a sweet contemporary about moving on with one's life after a tragedy. I liked the slow way things were happening for Laura, when it comes to personal change, but the small community vibe and the holiday romance-turned serious didn't seem to be as balanced as I would hope for.

Laura is a widow and from her initial presentation we learn she and her husband were childhood sweethearts, they loved each other deeply and it's no shock to know after two years Laura is still mourning but she is also starting to smile more, laugh more, enjoy her children's antics and life around her differently. I liked there's no rush here, both for Laura's inner self and for her dealing with those around her. In a completely weird way, I actually would have liked her to delve more into her feelings of loss, her husband did seem to be too perfect and I wanted to hear more about their life together. I suppose this is why her subtle romance felt a bit off, I can't see how her feelings were changed enough for her to accept a new person even if she does say that, even with rational logic behind it.

The book is certainly more about Laura discovering herself again, mainly by working in a place where people know each other and where the small community seems to have a huge impact on the way things are done around there. It was sweet to meet the "regulars" and to know a bit about each one. However, I also can't ignore that the descriptions and interactions between characters did feel a bit too impersonal, too detached from the narrator's voice to the page. Perhaps the author intended this but for me there's some emotional impact missing from the characters' themselves. Nevertheless, I must say some situations in which everyone sees themselves being were interesting to read about and sad to the point of meaning something. 

The story is predictable but the author has managed to insert situations and details that are unique enough to give the reader the impression of more fulfilling things.  In the end, there are some surprises happening, which is great but it seemed they came out of nowhere and that seemed a bit fake. Still, this was a story with good scenes, even if some weren't as seamlessly inserted as they could.

At the end of the book we also have Laura doing something that isn't a surprise but I kind of liked how there's a feel of HFN more than a solid HEA. Maybe the next book will show news when it comes to these characters, even when they aren't the focus.
Grade: 7/10

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