Book Review, Memoir, Nonfiction, Uncategorized

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl ~ Book Review

Save Me the Plums

Random House
Genre: Memoir
Release Date: April 2, 2019
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5

To say that Ruth Reichl’s career trajectory is impressive is an understatement (at least coming from the point of view of an avid reader and writer). Her memoir illustrates the myriad of ways that Gourmet magazine has played a role in her life, beginning in childhood, when she idolized the pages of her Grandmother’s copies. As a burgeoning writer, she visited the magazine’s office to pitch an article idea, but was sorely rejected. From there, she takes the reader through her time working as a restaurant critic. Her experiences there, and at the L.A. Times, are woven into small flashbacks. When she is eventually offered the role at Gourmet, Ruth is skeptical. The magazine as she sees it at the time, is no longer that which she adored as a child, it has become predictable, and she isn’t sure she has the means to make the types of major changes it would need to make it successful again. The fact is, she has no such experience. 

Nonetheless, when faced with an offer for a salary six times what she currently making,  along with a driver and yearly clothing allowance (how is that a real thing?!), Ruth takes the plunge. The rest of the book chronicles the ups and downs that Ruth, and Gourmet face. Her palpable fear when faced with her new staff for the first time gave me major secondhand embarrassment. Ruth jumps the gun, trying to please her new colleagues by agreeing to start her new job three months early, while finishing up her current job. Ruth’s people-pleasing qualities were all too relatable.

The ebbs and flows in Ruth’s experience at Gourmet were remarkable. I ate up every detail (pun intended) from the ultimate success of David Foster Wallace’s game changing article on the ethics of human eating habits, to the unexpected outrage that followed the decision to put a cupcake-covered cake on the front of the magazine. The struggle with keeping a constant staff was especially eye-opening, as was the insight into the way that Condé  Nast runs, seemingly swapping around upper management from publication to publication with little warning or explanation. Those segments of the memoir were disheartening, and I could feel Ruth’s frustration.

I also loved the way Ruth tied her family life into writing that was primarily career oriented. Her son’s relationship to food was interesting, and especially how much he longed for his mom to stay home and cook for him. This was a unique contrast to my childhood experience of longing for a chance to eat at restaurants.

The descriptions of food throughout this memoir were, of course, mouthwatering. It’s obvious that Reichl has spent much of her life writing about food: she knows exactly how to make her words succulent and enticing.  Overall, this book was, in and of itself, a delicious treat. It far surpassed my expectations, especially as an ARC I received, and did not seek out for myself.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5
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Book Review, Memoir, Nonfiction, Uncategorized

Becoming by Michelle Obama ~ Book Review

Becoming book with Venetian Cookies

Crown Publishing Group
Release Date: November 13, 2018
Genre: Autobiography
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪

Where do I even begin with this book? To say that the former First Lady is an inspiration would be a vast understatement. Through every facet of her life thus far, Michelle Obama has illustrated incredible drive and commitment to causes and experiences she is passionate about. Becoming walks us through her life, illuminating key events, moments, experiences, and people that have influenced her in some way. Not once does she come across as conceited, or as if she is trying to display her accomplishments, but the impressive nature of them shines through regardless. 

From her childhood, growing up in an extension of her Aunt and Uncle’s home, Michelle was constantly striving for more. She listened to her Aunt’s piano students fumbling through their practices confident that she could do what they were doing, but even better. Upon beginning her own lessons, she tried to excel further in her songbook than was expected of her, resulting in a strict life lesson on following rules. She utilizes the disparity between her Aunt’s battered piano keys, and those of the shiny new recital piano as a beautiful depiction of the way that privilege, or lack thereof, can affect the performance of an individual in different settings and circumstances.

Throughout her autobiography, Michelle offers insight into her non-linear career path, and her internal conflict as she struggled to decide how and when to make changes in her life. Her dedication to pursuing a law degree, and practicing law  only to ultimately realize it was not what she wanted, gave me immense relief. If even Michelle Obama didn’t have her life figured out from the get go, surely I’ll be okay, too. I also thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the development and growth of her relationship with Barack, and the way that his political pursuits affected their family. I had never given much thought to how moving into the White House would cause familial upheaval, especially with young children involved.

The entire section on life in the White House, and the adjustments Michelle had to make was extremely thought provoking. The lack of freedom that came with that sort of lifestyle, from not being able to go out for a casual date night, to not being able to take her daughter on tours of college campuses, showed life as the First Family with an unexpectedly melancholy lens.

The response to the ending, will, I’m sure, have a different effect on different readers, but I found it heart-wrenching and powerful. Every bit of this book fascinated me, and only left me wanting to know more about this incredible woman. I’ve found that the more I like a book, the shorter my review tends to be, and that seems to be a case here yet again. Perhaps it’s because I think that instead of spending more time reading my take on the writing, you should go and read the actual book itself.

(Also pictured, homemade Venetians! It’s a family recipe, but this one looks similar)

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My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪