Saturday, June 13, 2015

Recipes for A Beautiful Life - Review

Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories by Rebecca Barry
Rating: 5 Stars
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Writing with a delicate balance of humor and truth, critically acclaimed author Rebecca Barry reflects on motherhood, work and marriage in her new memoir about trying to build a creative life.

Genre: Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book: I was curious about just one building a creative life consisted of and anytime anyone moves to a big house in the country I'm in!

My Impression:
I've made no secret about the fact I've had a hard time getting settled on a book lately.  In fact I've been pretty whiny about it.  Every book I picked up I just couldn't seem to stick to no matter how much I was enjoying it and how much I wanted to read it.  Then just by fluke I picked up this one which has been sitting on my Kindle for months.  And for the first time in weeks I was hooked.  On the surface I don't have much in common with Barry.  I don't pay too much attention to horoscopes, meditation just turns into me making a to-do list in my head, and I would rather stab myself in the eye than have a therapy session with my extended family.  But at the root of things something clicked.  I could relate to the basic feelings she shares in the book.  The exhaustion and the love that comes with raising children, the frustration with it feels like one thing after the next is falling apart, and the push and pull that occurs when dealing with family.
This book is written in diary form (which I normally don't like) with recipes scattered about periodically written in paragraph form (which I normally don't like).  And it worked!  The diary entries are casual and chatty with enough detail that you connect to Rebecca and all the people in her life without going over to the overly wordy and poetic side.  Her balance is perfect.  She manages to talk about how she deals with her husband, her children, her family, and her friends in a way that is humorous and easy to connect to without ever coming off as silly or preachy.  She talks about her failures and successes both professionally with her writing and personally with her family without ever lapsing into self-pity even when it feels like her desire to put her head on the table and cry is seeping through the pages.  And for the first time in a long time I was sad when this book ended.  I want to know what happens next.  How's her mother?  What happened with the magazine?  Did they ever fix the bathroom ceiling?  Does Dawson willingly put on pants?

Since I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads, I probably should mention the cooking part!  There's a lot of cooking in this book and a lot of food.  When we're not in the kitchen with people making sauces or chopping vegetables we're at a coffee shop drinking coffee or hot chocolate.  Woven throughout the book is about a dozen recipes.  Some are for things like How to Awaken Your Creativity or Get Children to Listen to You (this one is tongue in cheek) and there's a crafty recipe for Jack 'o Lanterns or Mummy Heads involving hard boiled eggs.  The food recipes look delicious and are for foods that fit perfectly with the mood for the chapters surrounding the recipes.

The Simplify Your Life Quaker Tzatziki is top of my list to try.  It takes 1 quart of yogurt (Greek preferably), 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, 1 large cucumber - seeded peeled and chopped, the juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper to taste, and a handful or two of dill.  The basically reads to basically combine the ingredients except for the yogurt,  let sit for 30 minutes or so and then just mix in the yogurt (unless you're using regular yogurt in which case you've got some straining to do),  Let sit for an hour though preferably overnight and you've got her version of a Tzatziki sauce ready for anything.

To me this sounds simple, tasty and perfect for summer which when it really comes down to it would be pretty close to how I would describe this book.  That's not to say this book is light or fluff.  There's some serious issues tackled here including infertility, job loss, and the exhaustion that comes with taking care of two small children but there's a calming feeling about the book and I can easily picture reading it while sitting on the deck, eating Tzatziki spread over freshly baked bread.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes - especially if it was more of this.

Would I Recommend this Book?:  Yes definitely!

Challenges Met?


  1. Oooo, I love Tzatziki sauce and Greek type foods.
    I had to laugh at you saying you'd rsther stick yourself in the eye rather than have an extended family therapy session! Me too!
    That book sounds good, I don't mind diary entry type books at all.

  2. So glad you found a book that spoke to you. I hate it when I can't settle to reading. Makes me feel totally not myself. That Tzatziki sauce sounds lovely. Could eat it with a spoon. Very much like Raita in the Indian food realm. Have a good week!

  3. So glad you found a book that appealed immediately... I'm always up for a diary and the Tzatziki sounds delicious, too!

  4. I wish I lived in a big house in the country. The day I can't see my neighbour cannot come fast enough. Lol
    Glad you finally got invested in a book. I hate feeling slumpy. But I know being busy with the kids out of school probably doesn't help.
    Hopefully she'll be writing another book just for you. :)
    Happy reading!
    Brittany @ This is the Story of My(Reading) Life

  5. Haven't read an epistolary novel in a long time. Thanks for the great review!

  6. It's no fun when a book lover can't get interested in a book. I'm glad you found one to break that streak! I've never had Tzatziki spread but I love all the ingredients so I might have to try it.

  7. I love that sauce -- I make a similar version -- so refreshing and light for summer. I think I'd love the chatty, diary style of this book.

  8. It's nice when you find the right book just sitting there waiting for you! I've recently gotten my dusty Nook out after a long time not using it and saw several interesting books while scrolling through my library on it that I had forgotten I had! Of course, now I'm supposed to be reading three NetGalley ARCs that I requested in a greedy frenzy...

  9. Glad you found something to get you out of your slump! Sometimes it takes something a little different. I like the sound of this one.

  10. I used to live in a (small house, large property) home in the country and loved it. I still think about it, but my kids weren't happy so far removed from places they liked to go to. I read your Greek recipe with interest as I just bought an organic bottle of Tzatziki dressing, and had never heard of it but was willing to try it on salad for a healthier option. Didn't know it was a spread for bread, lol. Okay, I could do that too.

  11. Looks like a goodie. Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

  12. Interesting one, plus food is involved :)

  13. So it looks like you had to read something you wouldn't normally like to get out of your reading slump. It's lucky that you stumbled upon Recipes for A Beautiful Life when you did. It's great that connected with the MC so much. I'd love to know what the end result looks like for Simplify Your Life Quaker Tzatziki. Have fun cooking :D

  14. This sounds like a fantastic book! Such a great and helpful review :).

  15. I hear you on the trouble with reading! I have not been reading for months. Glad you found a book to capture your imagination.

  16. This book sounds like something I would enjoy, and that tzatziki recipe sounds easy and tasty.

  17. That's an interesting way to present a book and recipes. Tzatziki is yummy.

  18. Does Dawson willingly put on pants? LOL! This definitely sounds like a book I can relate to on many levels. I don't mind diary format--to me it seems to pull me into the text more quickly than chapters. And I love when you still think about "characters" after you've finished the book. And YAY for slump-busting books!!