Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: Christmas Cake

Summary: With the holiday season drawing near, the ladies of Hope Springs, North Carolina, are making plans for a cake cookbook—a project that will hopefully lift the spirits of a beloved member of their close-knit quartet. But Margaret Peele is downhearted and uninspired now that her cancer has returned. All she wants this Christmas is to visit her mother's Texas hometown . . . and to see their absent friend, pastor Charlotte Stewart, who left Hope Springs to run a battered women's shelter. So impulsive Beatrice Newgarden Witherspoon commandeers a very inappropriate—but comfortable—van to transport Margaret, Louise Fisher, and Jessie Jenkins across the country for a Lone Star State reunion with Charlotte. And over the course of a remarkable journey they will rediscover the greatest Christmas gift of all: eternal friendship. -- Avon

When Book Club Girl announced that she was giving away copies of CHRISTMAS CAKE by Lynne Hinton, I absolutely jumped at the chance. I am on a major binge on holiday reading, and I thought this book looked perfect for this time of year. I thoroughly enjoyed this story about the strength of women and their friendships, and I think it was just what I needed/wanted to read during this busy holiday season! CHRISTMAS CAKE reminded me of all the wonderful things that friends do for each other.

I'm not going to lie -- CHRISTMAS CAKE made me cry, and I'm guessing that I'm not going to be the only one with that reaction. Even though this novel is a tear-jerker, I still was left with a joyful feeling when I finished the story. Given the past month that I've had with health scares for me and my grandmother as well as a car accident, I've decided that it's the sad things in life that really make me appreciate everything I have. I know that CHRISTMAS CAKE further demonstrated this concept to me.

I absolutely adored the cast of characters -- quirks and all; and I really enjoyed the dynamics between the women. It was refreshing to see women who were a little older portrayed in such a way; and these women were all very real to me with their various problems including cancer and depression. Rarely do I read books about women in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and I think a book about older (and wiser) characters will appeal to many women. I especially loved how all of the women (even those who bickered) supported each other and basically just picked up the pieces when their friends needed help.

CHRISTMAS CAKE is a sequel to FRIENDSHIP CAKE which was released nine years ago. Normally, I like to read series in order because I am such a nut; however, I decided to read CHRISTMAS CAKE first since it is so timely! I felt as if the author did a pretty good job of introducing the characters and the friendship, but I still feel like I was missing out on some pertinent information from the first novel. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it got in the way of my enjoyment of the novel (it definitely didn't.) I just think I was missing out on some past behavior that might have made me feel like more of an insider into the women's friendships. Now, I want to go back and learn more about the characters' lives in FRIENDSHIP CAKE. I'm also hoping that there will be more future books in this series!

As I read CHRISTMAS CAKE, I couldn't help but think how much some of my friends and mother might enjoy this story. It truly is a beautiful story about women and their friendships. It actually would make a wonderful book club during the holiday season. It is a very quick read with memorable characters, and the messages in this story are perfect for this time of year. I was happy to see that there is a reading guide available, and I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to discuss the characters and the way they supported each other. Some of the themes that came to my mind while reading this book were friendships, grief, loss, hope, and forgiveness to name a few. I also think the recipes at the beginning of each chapter would make for a very delicious meeting! Instead of a traditional cookie exchange, each book club member could make one of the cake recipes from the book and then take home a piece or two from all the different cakes.

Tomorrow evening (December 15th at 7:00 p.m. ET), Ms. Hinton will be joining Book Club Girl on BlogTalk Radio to discuss CHRISTMAS CAKE. I am really looking forward to hearing Ms. Hinton discuss the inspiration for this novel, and I already have a few questions ready to ask her. Make sure you register in advance so you can participate in the chat room. You can set a reminder for the show here. This BlogTalk Radio show should be a great way to get in the Christmas spirit!

Thanks to Book Club Girl for sending me a review copy of this book.


Sandy Nawrot said...

If there is one thing I've learned in life, it is the power of a girlfriend. There is nothing else quite like it. There are definitely the lion's share of these types of novels about young women, so I like the fact that this one is about more "seasoned" women...ones that have been through it all.

bermudaonion said...

This book made me cry too! I did enjoy it and the characters in it, though.

Bonnie said...

I really enjoyed this book and I hope that Ms. Hinton continues the series. I did read Friendship Cake but it's been many years since I've read it and forgot some of the details.

S. Krishna said...

I'm glad to know this one is a sequel - I'll read FRIENDSHIP CAKE first! I feel like reading about sadness and difficulties in novels really make us appreciate what we have.