She had built her restaurant kitchen out of scents and tastes and textures, the clean canvas of a round white dinner plate, the firm skins of pears and the generosity of soft cheeses, the many-colored spices sitting in glass jars along the open shelves like a family portrait gallery. She belonged there.
(from The Lost Art of Mixing)
Slated for release in January, The Lost Art of Mixing is the sequel to The School of Essential Ingredients, which I read a few years ago and absolutely adored. I didn’t re-read the first book before tackling this one, and I admit that I didn’t remember everything, but that didn’t matter; although I recommend reading them in order, you certainly could start with this one.
Lillian is still a successful chef with a knack for reading people and knowing exactly what they need. She’s in a relationship with Tom, a widower who attended her cooking class in the first book, and unsure whether he’s really ready to move on, she cannot bring herself to tell him the news that will change their lives forever. Bauermeister also revisits Chloe, a young woman trying to regain her footing after a tough childhood and a failed relationship, and Isabelle, who takes Chloe in just as her memory loss starts becoming a problem. Isabelle’s daughter, Abby, who feels overwhelmed by responsibility; Finnegan, a very tall young man who somehow manages to fade into the background and carries around notebooks filled with stories; Al, who finds comfort in numbers and longs for the rituals of his childhood; and Louise, an angry woman who has spent 52 years trying to conform to an ideal instead of just being herself all factor into the story.
Bauermeister is a master storyteller. As in Joy for Beginners, each chapter in The Lost Art of Mixing is like a short story that when blended together creates a novel rich with unique characters with whom readers can all relate in some way. Bauermeister writes about food, love, and family in a way that is deep and beautiful and really gets you thinking about your own life. Her prose is wonderful in that you can almost smell and taste the food, and the characters’ souls are bared in a way that makes them feel like old friends.
The Lost Art of Mixing is about how people separate and come together. It’s about learning to trust, the importance of memory, and moving on after loss. Bauermeister’s understanding of human nature, our need for companionship, and the ways in which food can repair broken souls combine to create a powerful novel that will warm readers’ hearts.
Disclosure: I received The Lost Art of Mixing from Putnam for review.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.