I found this novel very interesting because it involved mixing the past with the future, by balancing rare books with technology.
Who would think that both could be featured seamlessly in the novel together? It takes place before, during, and after September 11, 2001. Many issues are brought up in the story that weave their way around two sisters, Emily and Jess, who lost their mother at a very young age.
When the book begins, the sisters are in their twenties and are trying to find happiness in their work and relationships. Emily is the older sibling who has an exciting position at a technology company and is engaged to be married. Jess works at a rare books store, is still trying to finish her studies and is a very active participant for environmental rights. Jess’ boss, George (who is sixteen years her senior), has fallen for her.
There is a focus on how the stock market rises and falls, and of Emily’s fiancé, Jonathan, hoping to hit the jackpot from the success of his company. He even finds himself in competition with Emily and her company’s brilliant ideas. There are secondary characters in the story that we are introduced to and whom we want to follow, such as Orion and Sorel. Rabbi Zylberfenig is also a strong character in the background and rounds up everything nicely.
Then there is the whole aspect of spirituality and how Jess is convinced from her inner beliefs of what she really feels for George.
One of the most exciting parts of the novel, to be sure, is when Jess starts looking into the rare cook books that George ends up buying for his store, from a secretive woman named Sandra.
There is a mystery as to how these books were obtained and what they meant to the previous owner, who is actually Sandra’s deceased uncle.
It is Jess’ job to catalog these new acquisitions, but she gets carried away by their history and tries to read into some of the books’ hidden messages. Overall, I was always curious to see how the story would unfold as the book went on, and it was nice to know that some things did work out in the end. It also has a wonderful cover!
No other title really comes to mind after reading this novel. The only book I thought about was Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? by Anita Rau Badami, only because she uses a real-life tragedy for her story as Goodman does in hers. What do you think of The Cookbook Collector?