Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review: Aftertaste

Summary: Mira Rinaldi lives life at a rolling boil. Co-owner of Grappa, a chic New York City trattoria, she has an enviable apartment, a brand-new baby, and a frenzied schedule befitting her success. 

Everything changes the night she catches her husband, Jake, “wielding his whisk” with Grappa’s new Mâitress d’. Mira’s fiery response earns her a court-ordered stint in anger management and the beginning of legal and personal predicaments as she battles to save her restaurant and pick up the pieces of her life.

Mira falls back on family and friends in Pittsburgh as she struggles to find a recipe for happiness. But the heat is really on when some surprising developments in New York present her with a high stakes opportunity to win back what she thought she had lost forever. For Mira, cooking isn’t just about delicious flavors and textures, but about the pleasure found in filling others’ needs. And the time has come to decide where her own fulfillment lies—even if the answers are unexpected. 

Aftertaste is a novel about rebuilding and rediscovery, about food passionately prepared and unapologetically savored, and about the singular contentment that comes with living—and loving—with gusto. -- Kensington

I've been in a kind of reading rut these past few weeks. It's not that I don't want to read, and it's definitely not that I don't have a lot of books from which to choose. It's just that I can't seem to find the time to read given my current schedule. Reading has almost become "work" for me. For someone like me, who loves (and needs) to read, it's more than a little disconcerting. But that's for another day and possibly another post...

In an effort to actually try to enjoy reading again, I decided that maybe I needed something a little lighter and more fun. I picked up AFTERTASTE: A NOVEL IN FIVE COURSES by Meredith Mileti with the hopes that it would be an escape book -- something that would help me to relax. AFTERTASTE tells the story of Mira Rinaldi, a new mom who also happens to be the owner and chef of a hot New York City restaurant. When she discovers that her husband is having an affair with their new hostess, Mira basically "loses it!" After an arrest and a round of anger management courses (along with a legal battle for her restaurant), Mira decides to go back home to Pittsburgh and try to pull her life back together. Once she is there, she discovers the importance of family and friends; and she also learns a great deal about herself.

AFTERTASTE was a very fun read for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I seem to be drawn to books like this, and AFTERTASTE not only encompassed so many of the things that I appreciate about women's fiction, but it also included loads and loads of food references. For someone like me, who loves descriptions of food, this book was an extra-special treat. I did feel as if I got a little peek inside what it's like to run a popular and busy restaurant, but I most enjoyed the general discussion about all types of Italian foods. I have to warn you though... AFTERTASTE will make you extremely hungry!

Like many books in this genre, AFTERTASTE had a very strong main character in Mira. She was extremely accomplished in her career, but not so much in her personal life. She was definitely battling some demons (the loss of her mother, her relationship with her mother, the adultery of her husband, her feelings toward her husband, the issues with being a new mom, the loss of her restaurant, moving to a new town, and many more!), and she was definitely resentful for much of the novel. Since I had a strong feeling that AFTERTASTE was going to be a heartwarming story, I suspected that Mira would eventually change; however, I have to admit that it took me quite awhile to really like her. She was extremely bitter and angry for much of the book (and who could really blame her?), and as a result, I had a very hard time relating to her.

In addition to Mira, there were some great supporting characters too. I loved Mira's friends and her romantic love interest. However, I probably most loved Mira's father's younger girlfriend Fiona. In fact, I thought Mira's relationship with Fiona pretty much summed up how much Mira grew throughout the novel. When Mira first met Fiona, she blew her off as a sort of bimbo based on how she dressed and her lack of Scrabble skills. But as their relationship grew and Mira saw how much Fiona loved her father and her daughter, Mira started to soften towards her. (And it didn't hurt that Fiona was extremely insightful about people!) It almost seemed that when Mira began to accept that she was wrong about Fiona, she was also able to see herself more clearly. She began to realize what was truly important in her life and made better choices for herself and her daughter.

As someone whose family lived in Pittsburgh for a number of years (I only spent a few summer breaks from college there), I really liked how the author incorporated so much of the city into this story. Ms. Mileti is a native Pittsburgher and she definitely captured the feel of the city. Of course, she did the same thing at the beginning of the novel for New York City and The Village, but I could better relate to her descriptions of the Strip and Primanti Brothers. There aren't too many novel that take place in Pittsburgh and it was just another thing that I appreciated about this story!

AFTERTASTE would make a fantastic choice for book clubs that like to discuss women's fiction. There is a reading guide in the back of the book with ten discussion questions. (I wasn't able to find an on-line link.) Since the book does focus on food, there are also some recipes included for a five course meal -- just like the title. Just think how much fun it would be to create an Italian-themed book club meeting! Some of the topics you might want to discuss include family, adultery, trust, passion, the importance of food, motherhood, friendship, love, and self-discovery.

If you are looking for a little calorie-free comfort food, then I suggest checking out AFTERTASTE.

Thanks to Darlene Chan for providing a copy of this novel.


Kim@Time2Read said...

I will definitely have to take a look at this one. Sounds like something my book club would 'eat up'!

Karlie said...

I need something to get me back into reading too. Maybe this book will do the trick!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

You're right - these food-themed books are perfect for book club meetings! :--)

bermudaonion said...

Wow, can you imagine managing a hot restaurant, a new baby, and an unfaithful husband all at the same time? I don't think I'd be likable if I faced that either. This sounds like a book I'd enjoy - I love the cover and title too!

Serena said...

this sounds good. I like that it has food in it...and the title sounds great. This must spur book clubs to create the foods in the pages just for the meeting.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

This does sound like a fun read. I can really relate to your reading rut. I kept nodding my head as I read your first paragraph. Reading is my soothing balm in life that helps me cope when life is so hectic. And we working moms are so busy! I'm glad this book was enjoyable for you.

Sandy Nawrot said...

OMG, really? "Weilding his whisk??" I almost choked on my lunch when I read that. I am a sucker for food-related books though. As far as the reading rut goes, I am in one, with the fact that I have NOT ONE DAY in a week where I can sit and read in peace. Not one. I can't even get to the blogs, or write a review. Something has got to give. My schedule is going to kill me.