A small-town woman yearns for her mother while aspiring to become a chef and fighting to protect the woods her brother loves.
At a young age, Vicky Finley loses her grandmother and mother–the former to death, the latter to her dreams of becoming a musician–leaving Vicky to care for a family of men, which sparks her knack for cooking. Early chapters cover well-worn territory as young Vicky wonders about her mother, goes through her things and begs any shred of information about her mother from reticent grown-ups. Brenda, a sassy, petulant sort who resents Vicky’s beauty, is nevertheless her best friend, and Hoenig’s portrayal of long-time female friendship, with its whirlwind mix of affection, drama and jealousy, is spot-on. Kevin, Vicky’s protective older brother, is a serious boy who loves his tiny upstate New York farming community. The pace picks up considerably once developers move in and begin buying up large chunks of woods and farmland for a planned resort. Because he’s already considered bookish and strange by the townspeople, Kevin’s protests are dismissed as unrealistic. Though she tries to defend him, Vicky believes that she betrays him by taking a job as a cook at the resort. Once tragedy befalls Kevin, Vicky sheds her ambivalence and takes up his cause. When Vincent, the brother of the resort’s developer, sees Vicky arguing passionately over the land’s future, he resolves to help her, and the two fall in love. This wins Vicky more resentment from Brenda, which comes to a head when further tragedy strikes Vicky’s family. Through it all, Vicky continues to long for her absent mother.
A bland and conventional beginning gives way to an entertaining, moving and unpredictable story. Patient readers will be rewarded.