Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review: "The Divorce Diet" by Ellen Hawley

The Divorce Diet Ellen Hawley
Published: December 30, 2014
ISBN: 9781617734519
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Recommended for readers who want something light and something that is easy to pick up and put down.

Abigail, an inspired cook and stay-at-home mother, decides to repair the problems in her marriage with a diet book for herself and an elaborate birthday dinner for her husband. But over dinner her husband announces that the whole marriage thing just doesn’t work for him. Reeling, she packs up her baby, her cookbooks, and her single estate extra virgin olive oil and moves in with her parents while she looks for work and child care.

Floundering and broke in this life she didn’t choose, she turns for guidance and emotional support to the internalized voice of her diet book, and it becomes her invisible guru. While she struggles to reconcile the joy she takes in cooking with the book’s joyless and increasingly bizarre recipes and her native good sense with its advice, she works her way from one underpaid job to the next, eats everything but what her diet book recommends, and swears to get her life in order before her daughter’s old enough to create long-term memories.

Her diet book has promised to help her become the person she wants to be, but it’s only when she strikes out on her own that she figures out who that is.

My Thoughts:
Ah, a book about diets (that isn't actually a diet book)...something I know a bit about!  This book came to me at a time when I was needing something lighter and, on that point, it did not disappoint.

That is not to say that this a fluff read--Hawley does explore some deeper issues, but it is an easy to read book.  It is written in diary form and  reminded me of Bridget Jones' Diary, which I'm sure will appeal to many readers.  Unfortunately, I am not a fan of the Bridget Jones books and that similarity, while purely a preference issue and no fault of Hawley, made it hard for me to get into this book.

That being said, I did feel that Hawley used the diary format to her advantage.  She was able to show the evolution of Abigail's character without hitting the reader over the head with it, and for that I commend her.  The actual "diet" part of this book is actually a rather minor plot convention, which is a good thing.  Instead, Hawley focuses on Abigail's transformation to an essentially dependent wife to an independent woman.

There were things that did frustrate me about this book.  Abigail's husband is a little more than a cliche and I found it hard to understand what Abigail ever found attractive about him.  He was very clearly a donkey's rear from the moment he shows up in the narrative and Hawley never really gives us a reason for Abigail falling in love with him--other than we was good looking.  If I don't understand why she is in the marriage, I am not emotionally invested in her getting out of the marriage.

I also felt unmoored with this book.  It feels almost (but not quite) like a British novel, but it is set in Ohio.  I read that Hawley is American, but has lived in the UK for quite some time, so I can kind of see why that is, but I don't think it excuses it.  I wish Hawley had honed the local color here, either for the US or the UK, so that the reader would feel that this Abigail's story was grounded in some sort of reality instead of somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

I did begin to enjoy the book as it went along and, but the time I hit the final third of it, I was hooked.  Once Hawley stopped doing a day-by-day form of the book and went to a higher view of the story, I found it more readable.  While I do wish the hook had come sooner in the book, I was glad that it finished strong.  It also has recipes at the end, and recipes are always a good thing!

Would I recommend this book?  Probably--to someone who enjoys books along the lines of Bridget Jones' Diary and who wants something that is pretty easy to put down and pick up--and, of course, someone who appreciates recipes.  While it served my need for something light in the moment, it wasn't a book that touched me in any way.

About the Author:
Ellen Hawley has published two previous novels, Open Line (Coffee House Press, 2008) and Trip Sheets (Milkweed Editions, 1998). She has worked as an editor and copy editor, a creative writing teacher, a talk show host, a cab driver, a waitress, an assembler, a janitor, a file clerk, and for four panic-filled hours a receptionist. She lived in Minnesota for forty years and now lives in Cornwall, where she feeds a blog—as well as two cats, one dog, one partner, and any friends who stop by. Awards include a Writer’s Voice Capricorn Award, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, and a Loft-McKnight Award. (Website, Blog, Twitter)

I was given an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.  

Want a second opinion?  Check out some of the other stops on this tour!  (Links go to the websites, not the specific review):

Monday, January 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, January 6th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, January 7th: Books a la Mode – guest post and giveaway
Thursday, January 8th: Annabel and Alice
Monday, January 12th: The Well Read Redhead
Tuesday, January 13th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, January 15th: BookNAround
Monday, January 19th: The Discerning Reader
Tuesday, January 20th: Reading and Eating
Wednesday, January 21st: Bell, Book & Candle
Thursday, January 22nd: girlichef
Friday, January 23rd: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, January 26th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Tuesday, January 27th: Bibliophiliac
Wednesday, January 28th: I’d Rather Be at the Beach

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