Saturday, November 14, 2009

Review: The Christmas Cookie Club

Summary: Mark your calendar. It's the Christmas Cookie Club! Every year on the first Monday of December, Marnie and her twelve closest girlfriends gather in the evening with batches of beautifully wrapped homemade cookies. Everyone has to bring a dish, a bottle of wine, and their stories. This year, the stories are especially important. Marnie's oldest daughter has a risky pregnancy. Will she find out tonight how that story might end? Jeannie's father is having an affair with her best friend. Who else knew about the betrayal, and how can that be forgiven or forgotten, even among old friends such as these? Rosie's husband doesn't want children, and she has to decide, very soon, whether or not that's a deal breaker for the marriage. Taylor's life is in financial freefall. Each woman, each friend has a story to tell, and they are all interwoven, just as their lives are.

On this evening, at least, they can feel as a group the impulses of sisterly love and conflict, the passion and hopefulness of a new romance, the betrayal and disillusionment some relationships bring, the joys and fears of motherhood, the agony of losing a child, and above all, the love they have for one another. As Marnie says, the Christmas Cookie Club, if it's anything, is a reminder of delight.

The Christmas Cookie Club is about the paths Marnie and her friends have traveled, the absolute joy they take in life and love despite the decisions they've regretted, the hard choices and amends they've had to make, and the sacrifices along the way. Ultimately, The Christmas Cookie Club is every woman's story. As you read about Marnie and her friends, their struggles and triumphs, what makes them laugh and what has made them cry, you'll see yourself and some of the ingredients of your own story. Celebrating courage and joy in spite of hard times and honoring the importance of women's friendships as well as the embracing bonds of community, Ann Pearlman has written a novel that speaks to us all. -- Atria

I love Christmas! It's the one time of the year where I go all out -- decorating, cooking, cleaning, etc. So it's a natural extension that I like to read books that take place during the holiday season. The latest seasonal book that I was fortunate enough to read was THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CLUB by Ann Pearlman. This novel about love and friendship (and not to mention cookies!) was the perfect read to get me in the Christmas spirit!

THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CLUB takes place entirely one evening at an annual cookie exchange among 12 friends. Each person brings 13 dozen cookies to share (one dozen goes to a charity -- isn't that a great idea?) and they all present a story about their cookies to the group. Through the course of the evening, it becomes clear that this annual meeting is really not about the food and the cookies, but rather the friendships that have been established through the years. The book is quite touching, and I even found myself tearing up by the second chapter.

There are many characters in this novel, and I think women will be able to relate to one or more of them. And even if there isn't one that reminds you of yourself, there will definitely be at least one characters that reminds you of a friend. Marnie (the head cookie bitch -- the author's term, not mine) is the narrator of the story, and she really is the glue that keeps the women together. All of the women seem to have personal issues whether it be marital problems, relationship issues, financial woes, health concerns, etc.; and I think this girls' night out provides some comfort to each of them.

I really liked the overall messages in this book especially the ones about family, friendship and love. I also love that this novel featured all types of women -- single women, married women, young women, older women, mothers, etc. . It was uplifting to see how resilient women can be and to see how friends can support each other through hard times. While the book had its fair share of serious and sometimes depressing parts, I still felt a sense of hope when I finished reading it.

Of course, I absolutely loved that the book included lots of cookie recipes. One thing I also really liked about this novel were the sections about the various cookie ingredients. At the end of each character's chapter, Ms. Pearlman included a "history and cultural lesson" about many of the ingredients in cookies including sugar, nuts, vanilla, etc. I actually found this information to be fascinating. I also think that learning about the history of the various ingredients caused me to to realize how people throughout the world are linked by these common items.

The author Ann Pearlman is actually a member of a cookie club, and she has based a few of the club's rules as well as some of the characters on her real life group. I was very impressed with her writing and character development, and I wouldn't hesitate to read more of her books. THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CLUB is her first novel; however, she has written some non-fiction books including INFIDELITY which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. If you'd like to learn more about Ms. Pearlman, you can read this Author Revealed interview.

THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CLUB is an ideal pick for your holiday book club meeting! I actually wish I were the one hosting next month because I have so many great ideas based on this book. Not only are there so many themes about love, loss, friendship and family to discuss, but there are also tons of wonderful cookie recipes. I think it would be so much fun to have a cookie exchange at the holiday book club meeting; and like the characters in the book, I'd love to hear my friends talk about the history behind their cookie recipes. There is a reading guide available with some interesting discussion questions, but I have a feeling that my group would end up socializing and eating for much of the evening.

If you can't have a Christmas Cookie Club themed book club meeting, I'd like to share with you the next best thing! In concert with the book THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CLUB, the author has set up a Christmas Cookie Club Party on Facebook. I think this is such a terrific idea, and it sounds like so much fun! In Ms. Pearlman's words:

The setting for my novel was inspired by a real cookie party. As I've been traveling around the country and have made friends over the internet, I'm aware of how meaningful and special cookie exchanges are to people. So I thought it would be fun for us to have a place where we could share our parties.

Tell me about your cookie exchange. Send recipes and photos. Tell me stories. We all love good cookies and stories!!!

Please come to my party and RSVP that you'll be hosting your own cookie exchange the weekend after Thanksgiving!

In addition to the invitation to the Christmas Cookie Club Party, the author also gives you plenty of terrific ideas for how to host a successful cookie club party. Make sure you check it out and share the invite with all of your friends!

I thought this review (kind of) fits for Beth Fish Reads new feature Weekend Cooking! Check out the other great food related posts!

Thanks to Kathy for sending me an ARC of this book!


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I always have loved cookie exchanges. They're a great way to get to know great people in addition to great recipes. I love the charity angle!

Molly said...

I have only been a part of a cookie exchange once in my life, but it was a lot of fun and something I hope I can do again. What a great setting for a story!

bermudaonion said...

I enjoyed this book too. I can't wait to try out some of the recipes.

Jill said...

I'm not a baker, but this one's going on my list...I love books about women, friendships, etc.

Nely said...

This sounds like loads of fun. I'm definitely in.


Beth F said...

It absolutely fits with Weekend Cooking!

I love cookie exchanges and I participate in one every early December.

Margot at Joyfully Retired said...

I've been a part of cookie exchanges too. This book sounds like a great way to honor that tradition. And, if the book has recipes, that's a plus. Thanks for the video. It's always enjoyable when I can hear the author speak about her work.

Gwendolyn B. said...

I can't wait to settle down with some cookies and a copy of this book! I've been wanting to read it for several weeks now. I'm glad to know you enjoyed it. (Yum!)

Kay Dew Shostak said...

Thanks so much for your recommendation. I can't wait to read this. Christmas Cookie Club - what a great idea.

caite said...

sounds like a fun book....and after all, who doesn't love cookies?

S. Krishna said...

I have this book to review and can't wait to get to it. Thanks for the review!

And I've never done a cookie exchange, but it sounds like a fun idea!