September 24, 2003
Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray

Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray: a wonderful feel-good type of book that probably most people could easily relate to.

Ruth, a housewife in Minneapolis, loves to bake cakes. Baking a cake is her form of both relaxation and therapy, something that she’s going to need a lot of in her near future.

Ruth lives with her husband Sam, her difficult teenage daughter Camille, and her mother Hollis who moved in after her house was robbed. To complicate things even further, Sam loses his job and Ruth’s father Guy, whom she hardly even sees and her mother hates, has a serious accident and has to move in. Needless to say, tension in the household increases and Ruth begins baking even more cakes.

In reality, this book was pretty easy to predict what was going to happen next, but I loved reading every word of it. Ray’s voice is soothing and funny and very easy to get sucked into. I enjoyed her characters, especially Ruth, Hollis, and Guy, and the interaction among the family was a joy to experience.

Like a piece of cake, Eat Cake was both light and enjoyable - perfect summer reading or to just take a break from every day life.

September 23, 2003
An Ocean in Iowa by Peter Hedges

An Ocean in Iowa by Peter Hedges: a quirky novel by the author of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape that turned out to be a quick, but wonderful, reading experience.

At the beginning of An Ocean in Iowa Scotty Ocean announces to his mother, Joan, that “Seven is going to be my year.” Turning seven does bring about many changes for Scotty, including his alcoholic mother’s decision to leave her family and try to live on her own.

The novel is set in the late sixties when the war in Vietnam raged and when man had yet to walk on the moon. Scotty experiences most of these things on the periphery since his main focus in life is his mother and how to get her to come back home.

While I enjoyed the book very much, after finishing it, I thought about how really it was quite a melancholy novel - most of the book is just life and picking up the pieces after major changes. However, Scotty’s character was so engaging (it was interesting to see a book take place through the eyes of a young child) and I wanted things to work out for him that I was compelled to read it in just a day or so.

All in all, not a very cheery book, but one that I would still suggest reading.