Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Better Food for a Better World": A Book Review

I first "met" Erin McGraw via her short story collection Lies of the Saints.  I was browsing through Eighth Day Books (one of the best independent bookstores in the universe) and came across this quirky title (I'm a sucker for quirky titles -- among other things).  I snatched it up and read it straight through.  I read it again -- hooked by McGraw's lively writing, intriguing characters, and stories with a twist.

I've read everything by her since.

So I was delighted to hear that she had a new novel out -- Better Food for a Better World.  My delight has not dissipated after reading it.  McGraw continues to be a first rate writer and she's well able to sustain a novel.

The premise doesn't sound all that exciting.  Three couples from college pool their financial and emotional resources to start "Natural High Ice Cream" with the goal of providing "Better Food for a Better World." Hey, I don't even like ice cream that much (mostly because I can't eat the real stuff thanks to diabetes).  And it hardly sounds "life or death"ish. 

But then I didn't count on the "Life Ties" marital un-support group they belong to or chubby contortionists or flirtations over ice cream and wine or...   Well, you'll just have to read it to see what other "or"s there are.  It truly is a matter of life and death -- just not in the physical way, so much.

McGraw's writing draws you in, up, and over -- just like her lives of these non-saints.  They are saint-wanna-be's sort of -- but of the vaguely spiritual, not religious type of saints.  They're good people who just can't seem to be good.   Just like all of us, they're women and men caught up in the holy ordinary of life and missing both the holiness and the blessing of ordinariness. 

Of course, their ordinariness is not most of our ordinarinesses -- few of us book feminist comics, struggle with teaching violin, devise healthy ice cream recipes with Ben & Jerry-ish names, or participate in self-help groups that abound with a certain sarcastic saintliness.  But Vivy, Sam, Nancy, Paul, Cecelia and David finally see the blessings of their lives amidst the trials -- and, when they do, help us see our own.

Thanks, Erin!

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