I have a really great soup recipe. It’s called “Garlicky Mango Soup” and was the first place soup contest winner in Vegetarian Times magazine around 15 years ago. When I made this soup for my parents the first time, my dad said “Wow! This is the BEST soup I’ve ever had!” My mom took a little offense to this (not really) because she’d been cooking soup for him for years and her soups are pretty awesome. I took Dad’s compliment as genuine, because I know that in that moment, it really WAS the best soup he’d ever had. I also took it with a realistic grain of salt, because I know that next week, he’d think the same thing about the Split Pea with Ham that my mom would make for him. And he’d be telling the truth both times. A comment like this is par for the course with both my parents. They are incredibly enthusiastic when they appreciate something. According to my dad I also make the BEST blueberry pie he’s ever had. My mom is the same way. She enjoys food, books, movies, friends, a well stocked grocery store, drives in the country and so many other things with simple joy. I happen to think this is one of the best gifts my parents could have given me---the ability to get really excited about something you love---appreciation with enthusiasm. When you can REALLY enjoy a simple thing in life, it makes your life so much nicer. You may occasionally get teased for golden retriever excitement by the negative nellies of the world, but in general, you’ll be a happier person for it.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let me get on with the book review. I LOVED this book. It is easily one of my FAVORITE books of all time. This is the kind of book I will tell everyone about ad nauseam for the next umpteen months. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer & Annie Barrows had me laughing, crying, excited, hopeful, fearful, and surprised. It is the story of Juliet, an English writer, searching for her next story. She finds it quite by accident when she receives a letter from a resident of Guernsey Island. He and his neighbors share with her their stories of German occupation during WWII. Juliet gets incredibly close to her subjects and even ends up with a place for herself in their story. Almost the entire narrative is written as correspondence between the characters. This approach makes for a story that moves quickly and gives you multiple characters’ perspectives.
Readers will love the characters in this book. I also loved the community that these people created. Even in the midst of war, occupation, poverty and starvation, they brought out the best in each other. We should all be so lucky to have friends and neighbors that care so much about each other. They did what they have to do to protect each other and provide for each other. I found it profound, humbling and inspiring. It’s the kind of story that will make you believe in the goodness of people and want to be a better person yourself.
Ratings (For an explanation of my rating factors, please visit the Rating System Key page.)
Crack Factor – 9.9. I might list this book as part of my definition of a crack book. Seriously—I was that hooked on it.
Tears Shed Factor – 9.9. This book is an emotional workout. I laughed out loud. Some parts made me angry. Others made me sad. And I wept. Several times. (Many times.)
Distraction Factor – 9.5. If you had less than 24 hours to decide whether or not to send your children to live with strangers, in order to protect them from an invading army that is headed for your home, what would you do? What if you were in a prison camp and your fellow prisoner was being threatened by a guard? Or what would you do with the 2-year old little girl, left behind when her mother, your neighbor and friend, is taken--arrested and deported by enemy soldiers? These are just some of the questions the characters in this novel face and they haunted me. And still do.
Enrichment Factor – 9.0. I have above average geographical knowledge and I actually knew that the island of Guernsey existed, but I didn’t know how close it was to the French coastline and I knew nothing about its occupation by the German army. This book described the hardships of wartime and occupation with excruciating detail.
PeopleFactor – 9.75. These characters will work their way into your heart and they’ll stay there for a long time.
Story Telling Factor – 9.5. The authors have a great knack for weaving multiple plot lines into one book—this was a war story, a community story, a romance, a tragedy, and at times, even a comedy.
Writing Skills Factor – 9.5. The correspondence style was a unique twist—but a great way to give you a sense of each character in his or her own words. The authors did this very well. They also were profoundly good at writing emotion and provoking emotional response.
Bad Ass Babe Factor – Elizabeth 9.9. This character is the only one you never know first hand, you only hear about her from other characters. She is strong, brave and loyal. She is fearless and a fierce friend, the kind of heroine you want in your corner. Kat, 9.5 – I don’t know if it’s appropriate to give a 4 year old a BAB rating, but I thought this kid was cool. Juliet 9.0 – The protagonist is pretty cool, too. Very smart, sassy and caring. And she’s a writer, so she gets extra points for that.
Hotter than Adam Factor – Dawsey, 9. You gotta love a middle aged bachelor who is helping to raise his missing neighbor’s 4 year old daughter.
Total Rating: 9.495