four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
48-Sept-Oct-2010
user_rating: 
0

A-The Cookbook Collector

The Story: In 1999, in the midst of the dot-com boom, two sisters take divergent paths to happiness. The pragmatic Emily, 28, is the CEO of Veritech, a data-storage startup in Silicon Valley; 23-year-old Jessamine, by contrast, is a whimsical Berkeley philosophy grad student who enjoys saving trees and working at an antiquarian bookstore owned by a retired Microsoft millionaire. Then Emily entrusts her boyfriend, the founder of a Boston-based tech firm, with a company secret as proof of her long-distance love. Soon, questions about social values, money, trust, and loyalty arise as the two sisters navigate their relationships and decide how they want to live their lives.
Dial. 394 pages. $26. ISBN: 9780385340854

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"The Cookbook Collector will appeal to readers who seek the pleasures of a beach read--romance, lovers’ betrayals, depictions of jet-setting people with money and power--but who also crave substance: solid prose, well-crafted scenes, developed characters, abundant literary allusions and plenty of food for thought." Jenny Shank

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"The cookbook collector of the novel’s title refers to one who would rather collect cookbooks than cook, someone who would stand apart from the world instead of participating in it. This is a story of people coming to fully participate in life." Robin Vidimos

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"She especially excels at capturing the precipitous rush of the then-nascent tech boom, with its breakneck innovations and backroom intrigues, while simultaneously recounting Jess’ increasing absorption into the ornate and distinctly analog world of high-end bibliophilia. Even as Cookbook strikes a rare bum note with a late, left-field revelation, Goodman delivers a novel of impressive élan and real emotional resonance." Leah Greenblatt

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"[The novel] succeeds as well as it does in part because, like any good fairy tale or social satire (it is a little of both), it is ever so slightly cruel. ... The fast-paced plot can seem too engineered at times, but the promise of satisfaction for all these clamoring appetites makes it easy to ignore the exposed gears." Yael Goldstein Love

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Again and again, The Cookbook Collector finds ways to ask what we should value in this world--love or money, things or feelings, poetry or programming, sense or sensibility. ... When the book comes to a close in a mix of completely foreseeable and fairly improbable events, we may forget the characters, but we continue to reflect on the issues Goodman hangs on them." Devra First

Miami Herald 3 of 5 Stars
"Her commitment to a pluralist Tale of Two Sisters plot--two sisters, two lovers, two family secrets, even two rabbis--often feels labored. The Cookbook Collector lightens and brightens not when Goodman pays homage to literary lions of the past but when her voice and unique pinch of mysticism come through." Ellen Kanner

Critical Summary

Many reviewers described Goodman as the Jane Austen of the modern day, and comparisons of the deftly written The Cookbook Collector to Sense and Sensibility are not without merit. Although a few critics thought that the characters merely served the plot, which at times seemed forced, the majority thoroughly enjoyed Goodman’s expert exploration of Jewish theology, cooking, technology, environmental radicalism, philosophy, and rare-book collecting. Most important, however, Goodman asks the big questions about what money can--and cannot--buy, and how we should live our lives. To those questions, of course, she provides no easy answers.