by Ann Pearlman
Rating: 3 out of 5
The cover of the book attracted me each and every time I entered the book store (which is quite often, I must say). I restrained myself from purchasing the book until I read several favorable reviews and then I decided to obtain a copy from my local library. I love the premise of the book: each year a group of 12 friends gather together for the annual Christmas Cookie exchange. They bake 13 dozen cookies --- one dozen for each participant plus a dozen to give away to charity --- and they use this girls' night out as a chance to catch up on one another's lives. The frame of a cookie exchange works great to set up the different character stories, and the addition of 12 new cookie recipes is certainly a bonus. Somehow, however, I just didn't enjoy the novel as much as I wanted to. I wanted to LOVE it and make the re-reading of this story as much a part of my holiday tradition as making my own Christmas cookies, but I found that I could not relate to many of the characters on that kind of an intimate level.
Now don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the book and it is a good chick lit read if you are looking for something light to get you into the holiday spirit. I think Ann Pearlman has a relaxed writing style that allows the reader to easily pick up the story where she left off without missing a beat. Each of the chapters focuses on a different attendee and the author does a nice job of characterizing them with enough depth and personality. My biggest problem was that I could not relate to the several sexual affairs of the different women. I tend to be a one man - one woman kinda gal, and the somewhat explicit descriptions were a bit too much for my prudish taste.
Putting that aside, however, I must say that I loved the structure of the novel. In fact, I am rather inspired to make my first writing attempt a frame narrative. I think it is a lovely way to develop characters while not having to worry too much about plot intricacies. I also liked the way the author began each chapter with a cookie recipe and ended each chapter with a short essay on common baking ingredients, such as flour, sugar, salt, chocolate, etc. It worked very well and appealed to both my right and left brain needs.
This novel also inspired me to begin a cookie exchange at my school. I have emailed all the teachers telling them of the date (December 16) and making sure that they know this is an optional event. Once I know how many teachers will attend (so far I have a total of 8), I will attempt to organize the participants to ensure that we have a variety of cookies and not 5 different chocolate chip recipes. The teachers will bring one dozen of their recipe for each participant PLUS an extra dozen to be given to the staff at the church where we meet as a special thank you for allowing us to use their building this year. If this goes well, perhaps this will be the start of a new tradition for our faculty and staff.
While I found this book to be only average as a pleasurable reading experience, I would say that it was way above average as an inspirational message to get out of my comfort zone and take that first step ---whether it be the beginning of a new writing endeavor, or chairing a special holiday event at my school.