A full-hearted novel about a big-city baker who discovers the true meaning of home - and that sometimes the best things are found when you didn't even know you were looking.
When Olivia Rawlings - pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club - sets not just her flambéed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of - the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country's longest-running contra dance, and her best friend, Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.
Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn's property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired - to help Margaret reclaim the inn's blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.
With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small-town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.
But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee - or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected - it could be even better.
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Great story, fabulous narrator
I can't pick just three words to describe this book, but I'll share three of my favorite things about the book.
1) The story has an almost timeless feel, as if there are bits and pieces from today and yesteryear. Livvy colors her hair all kinds of wacky shades so I knew it was a contemporary story, but the music and small town elements made me feel as if I had stepped back in time.
2) Livvy has some issues - big issues. But it is these issues that make her three dimensional and appealing. She's the kind of person you really want to get their shit together because they deserve better than they think they do. I appreciated that the author didn't try to redeem Livvy by having Livvy admit she was a mess and change in a big way (i.e. become perfect). Livvy owns up to her mistakes and faults, but is redeemed by her willingness to trust and love those around her.
3. Read the author's bio and it's easy to see where she drew inspiration for the exquisite details that make the reader feel as if they've been transported to a sugarhouse in rural Vermont. The vivid descriptions crafted by Miller qualify her to call herself a "wordsmith".
This is the first book I've listened to narrated by Jorjeana Marie. She perfectly suited the story and characters in Miller's book. Her performance never threw me out of the story, and in fact, drew me deeper into the mood, scenes and interactions. Her vocal interpretation of Margaret, the owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, was my favorite.
Livvy takes her pregnancy test in a bar. The contrast of the loud, noisy crowd surrounding her in such a dramatic moment of crisis underscored Livvy's (self-imposed) isolation and loneliness. This is also another fabulous example of the author's characterization of Livvy - she is never pathetic, never plays a victim. She's a strong woman on a journey to discover her own self-worth.
I was also deeply moved by the relationship between Livvy and Margaret. For someone who runs from commitment, permanency and responsibility, from the start Livvy seemed hellbent on working her way through Margaret's defensive, bristly, critical persona. Their scenes together are amusing, touching and heartwarming.
Highly recommended. Some readers may be offended by theme of adultery (I wasn't one of them).
Love this book. Love this narrator. Lovelovelove this author and hope she'll take us back to Guthrie.
- Amazon Customer