Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Divorce Diet" by Ellen Hawley, Served with a Fried Egg Sandwich on Garlic Naan with Homemade Curry Ketchup

January, with all of those pesky resolutions means that everywhere you turn you see articles and television segments on the latest diets and eating plans. Luckily, "The Divorce Diet" is not a new diet or lifestyle book to add to the pile--it's a fun, foodie-friendly new novel by Ellen Hawley. I'm reviewing it today as a stop on the TLC Book Tour and serving it up with a scrumptious Fried Egg Sandwich on Garlic Naan and and recipe for Homemade Curry Ketchup.

Publisher's Blurb

The Divorce Diet is dedicated to every woman who ever walked away from a relationship—or a diet. 

Abigail, an inspired cook and stay-at-home mother, decides to repair the problems in her marriage with a diet book for herself and an elaborate birthday dinner for her husband. But over dinner her husband announces that the whole marriage thing just doesn’t work for him. Reeling, she packs up her baby, her cookbooks, and her single estate extra virgin olive oil and moves in with her parents while she looks for work and child care. 

Floundering and broke in this life she didn’t choose, she turns for guidance and emotional support to the internalized voice of her diet book, and it becomes her invisible guru. While she struggles to reconcile the joy she takes in cooking with the book’s joyless and increasingly bizarre recipes and her native good sense with its advice, she works her way from one underpaid job to the next, eats everything but what her diet book recommends, and swears to get her life in order before her daughter’s old enough to create long-term memories. 

Her diet book has promised to help her become the person she wants to be, but it’s only when she strikes out on her own that she figures out who that is.

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Kensington (December 30, 2014)

It was a bad day to start a diet. When Thad, her jerk of a husband, tells her he doesn't want to be married Abigail takes baby Rosie and moves back home with her mom and dad. (Although personally I thought she should have ejected Thad from the house.) Abigail is twenty-five and without much job experience or marketable skills beyond the underground dinner party business she quit when she got married, so she pretty much hits rock bottom--financially and emotionally. The Divorce Diet follows Abigail's attempts to claw her way back up and out. The story is told in a diary-ish format, a mostly day-by-day account of Abigail's struggles with her new reality, her food and exercise journal, and her 'conversations' with her imaginary diet coach and weight-loss guru. I liked these little imaginary talks, they made me laugh--especially her snarky observations about food and dieting which were my favorite parts of the book. 

It did take me most of the book to warm up to Abigail as her immaturity drove me a bit nuts. Twenty-five is young, but not that young, and although I sympathized with Abigail and her plight (her husband truly was an ass), I wanted her to grow up. Her habit of needing to physically put her hand in front of her mouth to stop from interrupting when someone else was talking might be fine for a 5 to 8-year-old, but in an adult, it is darned annoying. It was about two-thirds of the way through the book that she began to look outside herself, gain some maturity, and start becoming appreciative of the good support she had in her parents and friend/daycare provider Dell. That's when she (stopped being that acquaintance that you try to avoid asking how they are doing because they will tell you in great detail and it's never good and) became truly likable. I did enjoy Abigail's relationship with her baby daughter Rosie and how much she cared about her throughout the story, and I liked her sense of humor--when she wasn't in the midst of her meltdowns or hand-over-mouth moments. The Divorce Diet is sometimes sad, often funny, and has a good heart. The last third of the story is what hooked me and had me rooting for Abigail. Readers of chick-lit, contemporary women's fiction fans, those fed up with dieting, and foodies with a sense of humor should enjoy it.

Author Notes: Ellen Hawley has published two previous novels, Open Line (Coffee House Press, 2008) and Trip Sheets (Milkweed Editions, 1998). She has worked as an editor and copy editor, a creative writing teacher, a talk show host, a cab driver, a waitress, an assembler, a janitor, a file clerk, and for four panic-filled hours a receptionist. She lived in Minnesota for forty years and now lives in Cornwall, where she feeds a blog—as well as two cats, one dog, one partner, and any friends who stop by. Awards include a Writer’s Voice Capricorn Award, a Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, and a Loft-McKnight Award.

There was plenty of food inspiration in the book--not all of it good. The diet meals in the Abigail's weight loss book are bad even before she puts her sarcastic spin on them. 

"For lunch I'm supposed to eat a "Skinnie Minnie' sandwich. This is a low calorie hot-dog bun filled with a half a cup of shredded zucchini and carrots, one slice of low-fat luncheon meat, and two ounces of shredded plastic, and topped with half a tablespoon of nonfat mayonnaise, half a tablespoon of nonfat plain yogurt, one set of quotation marks, and dashes of lemon juice, pepper, onion powder, and airplane glue. For dessert, I get one medium apple stem." 

There are the family dinners--stuffed pork chops, stew, pasta, etc. that she cooks for her parents, pancakes with blueberries, Thanksgiving dinner, and the recipes that Abigail develops for people who can't cook. A few actual recipes are given in the back of the book for readers who want to cook along--the Day 1 Chocolate Cake with crème de cassis and raspberry jam and garnished with white chocolate leaves and fresh raspberries, the Real Meatloaf with Ham and Cheese that Abigail makes for her parents, Chocolate Pie and Pavlova--with variations for simpler versions included. 

So many choices, but it was actually the mention of fried egg sandwiches with ketchup--"because what could be hipper than truck-stop food and irony?" that caught my eye. I don't think that I (or the world for that matter) eat enough fried egg sandwiches--so perfect when you don't have a lot of time to cook or lots of fancy ingredients sitting around the house. Since the only bread I had on hand was a leftover piece of garlic naan, I decided to go Indian-inspired with my sandwich and make some very simple curry ketchup for it. 

I am actually not a huge ketchup fan and if I am going to eat it I prefer it to be homemade. The curried ketchup below is adapted from a basic ketchup recipe from an agave cookbook I reviewed several years ago--quick to make and easily adapted to your tastes. I happen to love it with curry and garam masala. Beyond that, I simply toasted the naan in my grill pan, fried two eggs over easy in olive oil (sprinkling them with salt, pepper and a bit of Old Bay Seasoning), spread the curry ketchup on the naan, slid the eggs on top and sprinkled on a bit of fresh cilantro. Flavor and comfort. Messy to eat if you leave the yolks runny (a must in my book!) but well worth it. Make sure to dip/wipe up the extra yolk on the plate with the edges of the naan. ;-)

Curry Ketchup Recipe
Adapted from 'Delicious Meets Nutritious' Xagave Cookbook by Stephan Richards
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

2 (6 oz) cans natural tomato paste
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp agave
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 Tbsp white wine vinegar
sea salt to taste

Mix all ingredients in a blender jar and puree until smooth. Taste and season with salt if needed. Store, tightly covered in refrigerator--ketchup will keep for several weeks.

Notes/Results: A really great sandwich that will have to be added to my quick, comfort food meal rotation. The eggs were perfectly cooked--just runny enough--and the curry ketchup had the right amount of flavor and spice. You could certainly toss some veggies or greens on there if you have some, or serve with a salad or raw veggies. It made me happy---I'll make it again. ;-)

Note: A review copy of "The Divorce Diet" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of the Book Tour and what other reviewer thought about the book here.



  1. Homemade. Curry. Ketchup. You had me at hello.

  2. I'm glad that Abigail matured and grew on you and had you rooting for her by the end. Thanks for being a part of the tour!


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