A weekend among friends takes a confusing turn when long-simmering issues rise to the surface.
As the cook for former rock star Max Dresner, Juliette certainly sees a lot. When she's asked to serve the guests at his weekendlong birthday celebration at his French country home, she inevitably becomes entwined in their drama and history. For Juliette, this job with Max was meant to serve as a distraction from her past. The opening section of the novel begins two years earlier, when Juliette rushes home to Douarnenez from her busy life in Paris to deal with her ailing parents. She misses out on the opportunity to ensure a rave review of her Parisian restaurant, Delphine, and quickly discovers that the situation with her parents’ health was direr than she anticipated. After they die, she leaves heartbreak and her restaurant behind in Paris to attempt to start anew. Meanwhile, in the present, Max is feeling conflicted over his 40th birthday. His life has veered from its expected path time and time again, and he's still pining over Helen, the woman who stole his heart in college but remained unattainable. At the beginning of a new decade in his life, he's decided that this will be the weekend when he makes his move. Among the other guests at the party, relationships falter and bloom, old wounds are opened, and the weekend irreparably changes how they will forever see one another. The novel’s richest passages are about food and cooking, with particular care taken to describe the kouign-amann, a cake that's the specialty of Juliette’s hometown. Since Juliette struggles between the pull of Paris and her obligation to Douarnenez, a local pastry gaining popularity in the big city serves as an apt metaphor.
Tunnicliffe (Season of Salt and Honey, 2015, etc.) presents a somewhat predictable but still enjoyable portrait of love, friendship, and exquisite cuisine.