Wednesday, February 20, 2013

THREE GOOD THINGS by Wendy Francis

Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 1st 2013 by Simon & Schuster 
Genre: women's fiction, chick lit, contemporary novel, romance
Rating: 4 stars

Middle aged and recent divorcee Ellen McClarety decides to open a kringle bakery in Amelia, small town Wisconsin: the rhythmic routine of running a shop and the heartwarming smell of handmade goodness help Ellen to ease her mind and her worries. The simple repetition of the rituals involved in the craft of the delicious Danish pastry becomes for the former university secretary a creative outlet and a healing mantra to escape the bitterness of her failed marriage and divorce. 

Perhaps the divorce would be the catalyst she needed to begin the life she was meant to live.”

Ellen becomes romantically involved with one of her customers, shy widower Henry Moon. Maybe the intensity of her feelings for him doesn’t match the sweeping romance she experienced with her more adventurous and unreliable ex-husband, but she will find in the quiet man an unsuspected connection and, in the serendipity of their relationship, the key to put the past behind her back once and for all.

Meanwhile her younger sister, Lanie Taylor, juggles motherhood and a demanding career as a divorce lawyer, not without doubts and concerns of her own: under the pressure of their jobs and parenthood, Lanie and her husband Rob encounter a rough patch in their marriage and they both start wondering when they will ever give themselves free license to live their lives fully. Both Ellen and Lanie long for their deceased mother’s guidance, but through twists of fate and the intervention of serendipity,  they’ll find out that the biggest piece of life advice their mother left for them is locked in the very recipe to bake perfect kringles:

It’s all about balance, […]. Just like in a good kringle, no one ingredient should overwhelm another.” 

In this ‘slow burn’ novel by Wendy Francis, the traditional Danish pastry becomes the metaphor of a perfect life and, as it usually happens when the setting of a novel is a quaint little town, the small community with its charming environment is a character in itself.  In Three Good Things events unfold at a very languid pace and now and then the narration shifts its focus between Lanie’s and Ellen’s story threads, offering a very placid portrait of two women at a turning point in their lives.  I wouldn’t classify Francis’ debut novel as fluffy chick lit, for the saving grace of this slow-paced and sometimes contrived storyline is in the final plot twist. Overall, this delicate confection was a satisfactory read.  

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