How to Eat a Cupcake is a wonderful book about truly becoming an adult. It’s about friendship and what makes a family. It’s about starting a business. And it’s about cupcakes.
Summary via Goodreads.com:
Funny, free-spirited Annie Quintana and sophisticated, ambitious Julia St. Clair come from two different worlds. Yet, as the daughter of the St. Clair’s housekeeper, Annie grew up in Julia’s San Francisco mansion and they forged a bond that only two little girls who know nothing of class differences and scholarships could—until a life-altering betrayal destroyed their friendship.
A decade later, Annie is now a talented, if underpaid, pastry chef who bakes to fill the void left in her heart by her mother’s death. Julia, a successful businesswoman, is tormented by a painful secret that could jeopardize her engagement to the man she loves. When a chance reunion prompts the unlikely duo to open a cupcakery, they must overcome past hurts and a mysterious saboteur or risk losing their fledgling business and any chance of healing their fractured friendship.
When I first read the description of this book (probably not exactly the words above, but something close to it), I thought it would be the light, fluffy, fun kind of woman’s fiction (dare I say– chick lit?). I like light, fluffy, fun books, but chick lit often seems to rub me the wrong way. I found the description of this book interesting enough to be willing to give it a try anyway.
I’m glad I did. The book is fun, but not the light, fluffy kind, and not the annoying, “why don’t these women just grow up” kind. It’s thoughtful and multilayered, with characters that are real and appealing (some more immediately than others).
Getting to know Annie was easy. She’s worked hard for everything she has, she makes time for friends, and she misses her mother. She’s perhaps a little too open and trusting for her own good, at least where everyone but the St. Claire family is concerned. She’s a genuinely nice person.
Julia is definitely not nice. Driven and successful are (at least in the beginning) the most polite words to describe her. In this, she takes after her own mother. But there is more to her than that, even if she has trouble seeing it herself. Her complicated love life, with a secret she’s waiting for the right time to disclose, isn’t helping. And beginning to realize how her long past behaviour affected her one-time best friend isn’t making her feel any better about her life now.
These women are both still young, but are finally settling into the people they are going to be, and it’s a pleasure to watch them grow.
Equally, I was involved in seeing the process of them building a business together, and watching them figure out why unexpected obstacles (like vandalism) were being thrown in their path.
And reading about the cupcakes themselves was, well, the icing on the cake.
Book Club Notes
After I accepted this book for review (thank you, Harper Collins!), my friend Ruth nominated it for discussion for one of my book clubs. I supported it, and enough other people were interested that it was one of the books selected. I was slightly concerned about the potential fluff factor (our other group has read a few fun books where were enjoyed by all, but there was really not much to say), but was mostly excited about the possibilities.
The concern and excitement both skyrocketed when Ruth (who worked on Meg Donohue’s website) arranged for her to join us at our meeting. We’ve talked about author visits before, but it has never worked out (way too many authors live on the East Coast, and are in bed before our California book club meets, so even Skype tends to fall through).
Luckily, having Meg visit worked out wonderfully. We all liked the book (I checked before she arrived), and she was sweet, charming and very interesting. It was a lot of fun to get definitive answers to some of our questions, and to learn more about the process of writing and publishing a book. The latter aspect (and the introductions and get to know each other chat) took the place of our usual social time, and I don’t think anyone minded!
The discussion would have gone well even without Meg’s presence. There was plenty to talk about. We touched on the characters, their motivations and how we reacted to them; the effect that social class had on the characters, and particularly on the two girls growing up and their relationship; the seamless way that the reader was given information about what was happening; the relative advantages and disadvantages of the various love interests portrayed in the story; the nature of the friendships and family relationships; the setting of the book and how it is portrayed, even a few individual word choices…
I’d recommend How to Eat a Cupcake for book clubs to read and discuss.