Carole told me Julia's Chocolates was good. She read me a little of it and I loved it.
She told you this book was good.
She wasn't kidding. This book is fabulous.
This book is so masterfully crafted, readers flow seamlessly between laughter and tears. And it's all because of author Cathy Lamb's characters.
The story is inventive and compelling, true. I stayed up until 2 a.m. last night in anticipation of Julia's encounter with Robert: when would it be? How would it be? Who would survive? Would any of Julia's family and friends be hurt? Would Dean? More importantly, how would the chickens fare?
However, the story is only half the story, so to speak. The rest is the people. Readers meet some really incredible characters, and it's easy to fall quickly in love with them. The other day, my co-worker Melanie talked about how some older women are fun and others are fussy and dull. I whipped out Aunt Lydia as an example of a spirited older woman, someone I wanted to emulate. (I may have fewer cement pigs, but I want that kind of spirit.)
I love Dean. I will now have to have two t-shirts: I (heart) Mr. Darcy and I (heart) Dean. Everyone wants a Dean, and some have found him. Or a Jerry, someone who wants his wife happy and will stop at nothing to do it, if only he is given the chance.
Then there are the villains, like J.D., a worthless so-and-so at best. And Robert — well, that's a no-brainer. I know women like Katie who stand by their men no matter what. I've probably been Katie. And I've probably been Lara and Caroline and Julia. I hope from time to time I've been Lydia, or at least a close fascimilie.
Lamb gave us clear heroes and villains (though I had to understand Lydia and Stash's relationship a little before I knew which side he was on). Are there men as patient and loving as Dean and Stash? As truly accepting as Jerry? As vile as Robert? (Wait, I can answer that last one.)
Can people change, like Olivia Cutter? Can people evolve like Julia? Can people persevere like Lydia? Boy, I hope so. Even if that's not the case, Lamb made it seem plausible.
In the end, it was a great book. It is not for the faint of heart — oh, no. There are unspeakable things that happen to the innocent that will break your heart. As Julia recounted her experiences with Robert, I read with only one eye, as if that would make it less awful. We won't even speak of the children. But it's worth it to read the good and the evil, if only to hear how Julia talks about sausage.
Read this book right now. Then loan your copy to friends. And wait impatiently for Cathy Lamb's next book.