Published by William Morrow on July 31, 2007
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours for review consideration.
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Angela Russo is thirty-three years old and single, stuck in a job she doesn't love and a life that seems, somehow, to have just happened. Though she inherited a flair for Italian cooking from her grandmother, she never has the time; for the past six months, her oven has held only sweaters. Tacked to her office bulletin board is a picture torn from a magazine of a cottage on the coast of Maine, a reminder to Angela that there are other ways to live, even if she can't seem to figure them out.
One day at work, Angela clicks on a tiny advertisement in the corner of her computer screen—"Do Soulmates Exist?"—and finds herself at a dating website, where she stumbles upon "MaineCatch," a thirty-five-year-old sailing instructor with ice-blue eyes. To her great surprise, she strikes up a dizzying correspondence with MaineCatch—yet as her online relationship progresses, life in the real world takes a nosedive. Interpreting this confluence of events as a sign, Angela impulsively decides to risk it all and move to Maine.
But things don't work out quite as she expected. Far from everything familiar, and with little to return to, Angela begins to rebuild her life from the ground up, moving into a tiny cottage and finding work at a local coffee shop. To make friends and make ends meet, she leads a cooking class, slowly discovering the pleasures and secrets of her new small community, and—perhaps—a way to connect her heritage to a future she is only beginning to envision.
The Way Life Should Be is about the search for the right relationship and the right life, the difficulty of finding true love, and the yearning for the home that food represents. Laced with recipes and humor, wisdom and wit, it is at once a clear-eyed portrait of Maine, a compassionate look at modern life and love, and a compelling work of literary fiction that explores the gulf between the way life is and the way we want it to be.
This was my first time reading one of Christina Baker Kline’s novels, though I’ve noticed a lot of positive comments about her books around the blogosphere and have had Orphan Train on my shelf for a while. The Way Life Should Be is women’s fiction with a slight chick-lit feel. It had a first person present tense narrative, which for some reason struck me: I felt like Amanda was right there in front of me, telling me her story. Amanda has suppressed her naturally adventurous spirit over the years, and is in this weird stage that falls somewhere between feeling like she needs a man in her life and wanting to be completely self-reliant. I liked the pull between the two; it felt realistic.
There was an insta-romance at the start. Okay. Not my thing at all, but somehow it wasn’t annoying here, so I stuck with it (and was glad I did). The book was also a little predictable, but that didn’t matter much, either. On the flip side, it would have been the easiest thing in the world for Kline to wrap up this novel in any number of expected, typical ways, but she didn’t. This one had an open ending that made complete, perfect sense.
Kline crafts a story that’s so enjoyable. It’s perfect whenever you want a light, comfort read. It’s easy to live vicariously through her characters. As a bonus, tasty Italian recipes are included at end of the novel. I know I’ll be reaching for Kline’s other novels in the future.