Publication date:November 1, 2015 by Head of Zeus
ISBN 13: 9781784974862
Source: Publisher for an honest review
New York food writer Tressa returns from honeymoon worried that she has married her impossibly handsome new husband Dan out of late-thirties panic instead of love.
In 1930’s Ireland, her grandmother, Bernadine, is married off to the local schoolteacher after her family are unable to raise a dowry for her to marry her true love, Michael.
During the first year of her marriage, Tressa distracts herself from her stay-or-go dilemma by working on her grandmother’s recipes, searching for solace and answers through their preparation.
Through the stories of these two women RECIPES FOR A PERFECT MARRIAGE challenges the modern ideal of romantic love as a given and ponders whether true love can really be learned.
If you have read my blog much, you will have noticed that I have read and reviewed a few of Kate Kerrigan's other novels and enjoyed them very much. Naturally, I was happy to join the blog tour for two of her newest US releases - Recipes for a Perfect Marriage and The Miracle of Grace.
Recipes for a Perfect Marriage gives the reader the point of view of Tressa in her first year of marriage to Dan interspersed with what turns out to be a journal written by her grandmother which details her marriage and many traditional recipes from Ireland.
While Tressa is lamenting her own marriage and expressing the desire to have a perfect marriage like her grandparents, the reader is learning that Tressa's grandmother, Bernadine, didn't feel she had a perfect marriage for most of her married life. The irony is wonderful and the love stories are refreshing and brutally honest ---- there is no such thing as perfect marriage -- not in the way they are often portrayed in books and movies.
As usual, I found Kerrigan's writing to be charming, funny, and insightful. I particularly enjoyed the short quotes at the beginning of new chapters --- they reflect the wisdom learned by Bernadine and they are true. The recipes were so fun to read - there is a little anecdote that goes with each one.
I have to give credit to Kerrigan --- even though I originally didn't think I'd be that interested in the topic of this book, once I read the first page, I was hooked. I have said many times and it still holds true -- I will read anything Kate Kerrigan writes because she can write about subjects I am not that thrilled about and make them engaging. I love her sense of humor and her honesty about human weakness and our ability to learn and grow.
I was completely taken with Bernadine and Tressa and their honest and sometimes not so nice feelings -- I found it refreshing, quite honestly. I would happily recommend Recipes for a Perfect Marriage to anyone who enjoys books about family, Ireland, or just a good, thoughtful and fun read.
**Extract from Recipes for a Perfect Marriage**
The heart of a recipe, what makes it work, is a mystery. Taste is such a personal thing and yet the right recipe can open a person’s mind to a food they thought they didn’t like. Then again, you can put all the right ingredients together, follow the instructions ex- actly, and still have a disaster on your hands.
That’s how it has always been with me and my Grandma Bernadine’s brown bread. I would do exactly as she showed me, but it would always come out a little too crumbly or doughy or hard.
“You’re too fussy,” she’d say. “Put some jam on and just eat it anyway. It’ll be different again tomorrow.”
And it was always different. But it was never right. Like my marriage to Dan.
they say you just know the man you are going to marry. That’s how it’s supposed to work. You date guys, sleep with them, live with them—get through your twenties having fun falling in and out of love. Then one day you meet this man and you just know he is “The One.” He’s different from everyone else you have ever met. You feel happier, more special, more alive when you are with him. So you get married.
For two weeks you are Barbie and Ken. There’s a big show- off wedding at the Plaza, and you wear a white meringue of a dress even though you are over thirty. You spend what should be the down payment for your first home on fourteen days in the Caribbean.
Then, when you get your “Ken” home, you realize he was an impulse buy. You wanted the “married” label so badly that you didn’t think it through, and now he doesn’t look as good as he did under the spangly lights of singledom. He doesn’t fit you properly, either; although you convinced yourself he’d be suitable for every- day use, you now find him uncomfortable and irritating. He has cost you your freedom; he is the most expensive mistake you will ever make. You have been married for less than three months and everything he does and everything he says makes you scream inside: For the rest of my life! I can’t live with this for the rest of my life!
But you don’t say it out loud because you are ashamed of hav- ing made such a terrible, terrible mistake. Even though you de- spise him for the way he clips his toenails in bed, you know it is not grounds for divorce. You know that this silent torture you are living with is entirely your fault for marrying him when you didn’t really love him. Not enough, certainly. Now that you think back on it, did you ever love him at all, or was it all just about you desperately wanting to get married? Because surely love is too strong to allow these petty everyday annoyances to turn it into ha- tred. Love is bigger than that. Love doesn’t make mistakes. Not real love. Not the kind of love that makes you marry someone.
by the seventh week of married life the statistic that one in four marriages ends in divorce cheers you, and you have decided that six months is a respectable amount of time to be seen trying to make it work.
Except that you know you haven’t. Tried, that is. And you can’t help thinking that perhaps you are just part of a generation of women who finds marriage a challenging and difficult state of being.
Or perhaps there is no universal group, no zeitgeist-y cliché to hide behind.
In which case I am just a woman who married the wrong guy and is trying to find a way out.