Books & Literature

Book Review: A Recipe for Family, by Tori Haschka

FICTION: Three women, drawn together by impossible circumstances, will discover that the greatest comfort can often be found in the mess.

With a protracted start and rushed ending, it was difficult to enjoy this novel.

Feature image credit: Simon & Schuster

Food and travel blog writer Tori Haschka has released her second novel A Recipe for Family. It follows a similar vein to her debut novel Grace Under Pressure and covers themes such as motherhood, the impact of social media, societal pressures, and financial agency for women. It is also based on the lives of women who live in the Northern Beaches.

Each chapter provides a glimpse into the life and perspective of one of three characters, all women and each connected to the other. Some of the 39 chapters also start with a social media conversation, giving the reader a bit of insight into what the chapter is about, or why they feel how they do. The opening chapter starts with a small string of Facebook messages, after one mother reached out to others because she was feeling overwhelmed by her family responsibilities. The responses listed ranged from being supportive, to advisory, to a multi-level marketing pitch, to a suggestion of the mother getting an au pair. The latter sets the scene for one of the women, Stella.

As such, in this first chapter we hear from Stella who is a mother feeling overwhelmed by her family and her work, with a husband who often works away. Stella is obsessed with social media and how she is viewed by others; most frequently the chapters that start with a string of judgemental Facebook message chats are hers.

In Chapter Two, we hear from Elise, Stella’s mother-in-law and a woman who is discovering that her powerful and successful career is fast becoming undone for one main reason, and that is her age. Elise is an independent woman, doesn’t fully understand how Stella cannot cope, and is soon to be reunited with a lover from her past.

Then enters the last main character of the novel, Ava. She is a lost soul and enters the lives of these two women as the au pair for Stella. Her own mother has passed away, and her ongoing connection with her mother is a stash of letters and recipes that her mother has left for her, each one for a separate occasion that she will encounter throughout her life.

The pace of this novel is very unbalanced. At first it was achingly boring and felt self-indulgent, and then all of a sudden all of the problems of each of the three main characters was neatly wrapped up. Perhaps the point of the wrap up or fast-paced ending was an attempt by Haschka to have a climactic finale, but it really seemed to fail in multiple ways. As few aspects of this book seem real, it felt like the author changed her mind on the course of the direction in the book halfway through. The voices of the women in the story felt inauthentic.

Despite myself having directly relatable experiences with some of the characters, no connection was felt, and no emotions stirred, namely because of the ostentatious quality of the writing and plot. Nevertheless, the novel is useful for a book club and includes questions at the end. It is great for discussion piece due to the many themes that are covered across the multiple generations.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster
Released: August 2022
RRP: $29.99

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