Monday, April 4, 2016

Life Without a Recipe by Diana Abu-Jaber (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% m own. 

About the book- 

On one side, there is Grace: prize-winning author Diana Abu-Jaber’s tough, independent sugar-fiend of a German grandmother, wielding a suitcase full of holiday cookies. On the other, Bud: a flamboyant, spice-obsessed Arab father, full of passionate argument. The two could not agree on anything: not about food, work, or especially about what Diana should do with her life. Grace warned her away from children. Bud wanted her married above all—even if he had to provide the ring. Caught between cultures and lavished with contradictory “advice” from both sides of her family, Diana spent years learning how to ignore others’ well-intentioned prescriptions.

Hilarious, gorgeously written, poignant, and wise, Life Without a Recipe is Diana’s celebration of journeying without a map, of learning to ignore the script and improvise, of escaping family and making family on one’s own terms. As Diana discovers, however, building confidence in one’s own path sometimes takes a mistaken marriage or two—or in her case, three: to a long-haired boy-poet, to a dashing deconstructionist literary scholar, and finally to her steadfast, outdoors-loving Scott. It also takes a good deal of angst (was it possible to have a serious writing career and be a mother?) and, even when she knew what she wanted (the craziest thing, in one’s late forties: a baby!), the nerve to pursue it.

Finally, fearlessly independent like the Grace she’s named after, Diana and Scott’s daughter Gracie will heal all the old battles with Bud and, like her writer-mom, learn to cook up a life without a recipe.

Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of four novels, including Crescent, and a previous memoir, The Language of Baklava.

My thoughts-

The description for Life Without a Recipe really drew me in. It sounded similar to my life in some ways. Although it was my great grandmother who was German and was actually really sweet and never met anyone she didn't treat kindly and it was my step-dad who was Middle Eastern (hailing from Pakistan not Jordan), I felt a connection to this story before I even opened the book because of the similarity in backgrounds of our two families. I was expecting the story to be more about the author's father and grandmother but it seemed to be more a sprinkling here and there of their anecdotes or battle of the wills. I still enjoyed reading about Diana Abu-Jaber's life, particularly her foray into parenthood when she adopts a little girl. I appreciated being taken on the journey, and the worry and waiting that comes with the journey, that she and her husband went on to adopt their little girl.  I also enjoyed reading about after the baby came home and the things she went through as a new mother, a few were laugh out loud and funny and others earned a head nod in sympathy. Life Without a Recipe is a hodge podge of the author's many life adventures with an interesting cast of characters. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading memoirs or who enjoy stories about families. 

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