Monday, September 29, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: "The Way Life Should Be" by Christina Baker Kline Served with a Simple Fennel & Parmesan Salad with Lemon (Recipe From the Book)

"You have il regalo," Nonna told me one steamy August evening before I left for college. The gift. A light touch, an instinctive to substitute and improvise. I knew I had it--it was one of the few things I was certain I did well. Though hopeless at chemistry in the classroom, I intuitively understood the alchemy of cooking."  

The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline

Publisher's Blurb:

Angela can feel the clock ticking. She is single in New York City, stuck in a job she doesn’t want and a life that seems to have, somehow, just happened. She inherited a flair for Italian cooking from her grandmother, but she never seems to have the time for it—these days, her oven holds only sweaters. Tacked to her office bulletin board is a photo from a magazine of a tidy cottage on the coast of Maine—a charming reminder of a life that could be hers, if she could only muster the courage to go after it.

On a hope and a chance, Angela decides to pack it all up and move to Maine, finding the nudge she needs in the dating profile of a handsome sailor who loves dogs and Italian food. But her new home isn’t quite matching up with the fantasy. Far from everything familiar, Angela begins to rebuild her life from the ground up. Working at a local coffeehouse, she begins to discover the pleasures and secrets of her new small-town community and, in the process, realizes there’s really no such thing as the way life should be.

Paperback: 320 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 16, 2014)

Angela envisions a very different life for herself, out of the city's hustle and bustle, in a small cottage in Maine. Life, the way it should be--filled with satisfaction and a great love. Inspired by her friend's Internet dating success she signs up herself and finds a likely candidate living in a small coastal Maine town. Distracted by being in love with love, she makes a colossal mistake at work that leaves her jobless and Angela packs up her life and drives up to Mount Desert Island to be with 'her man' and find a better life. Her experiences don't come close to to her fantasies but she begins to find friends in the small community and she dives into her passion for cooking by creating pastries and soups for the coffee shop she works at and teaching cooking classes. 

This is my third Christina Baker Kline reprint review and my favorite of her books so far, mostly because of all of the food. Angela cooks like I do with il regalo as her grandmother or Nonna calls it, loving to take the bones of a recipe and instinctively making changes that make it your own. I devoured the food she made from both from her own recipes and ideas, and those of her Nonna. I love a good start-life-over-and-change-your-destiny story and this book delivers. Angela is likable and Nonna is the Italian grandmother everyone wants. I became very fond of the quirky group of fellow transplants that Angela befriended in Mount Desert Island and I would have liked even more of their stories. The Way Life Should Be is foodie chick-lit, not at all deep, but warm, fun, and a quick read to curl up with over a big bowl of pasta or maybe a plate of fennel salad. 

Author Notes: Christina Baker Kline was born in England and raised in Maine. The author of five novels, including the runaway bestseller Orphan Train, Kline has taught literature and creative writing at Yale, New York University, and Fordham. She lives outside of New York City.
Find out more about Kline at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

There is of course no shortage of food inspiration in this book--baked goods, many soups, and classic Italian dishes handed down from Angela's Nonna. There are recipe 'sketches' throughout the book and listed in the back, and close to a dozen actual recipes. Although I was tempted by Nonna's Potato-Crusted Sole and Pasta e Fagioli, it was the simple fennel salad that reeled me in. Part of Angela's cooking class/group's 'White Christmas' dinner (the salad plus Tuscan White Bean Puree and a White Bolognese), I enjoyed it on its own as a perfect dish for a warm and humid night.   

Fennel Salad
Adapted from The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline

"The fennel salad is simple, I slice the bulbs into thin sheets and add a generous amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano shaved to slivers. Lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil whisked into a vinaigrette , along with freshly ground pepper, complete the dish."

Deb notes: I like to add the extra fennel fronds for a spot of color and I also zested the lemon and added the zest to the salad.

Notes/Results: I love fennel and I especially enjoy it with Parmesan and lemon. There is something about that cooling licorice/anise flavor of the fennel that is a heavenly match for the rich and salty Parmigiano-Reggiano and the tangy, freshness of the lemon. This salad is perfect as a starter, a side for fish or if you are me--just gobbled up from the mixing bowl as dinner. I will definitely make it again. 

Note: A review copy of "The Way Life Should Be" was provided 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 TLC Book Tours and Reviews here.



  1. I really like your book reviews. They are always entertaining to read and gives me an idea if I would like that particular book or not, Nice review.

  2. Gluten Free A-Z BlogOctober 1, 2014 at 1:46 AM

    What a great review! I'm ready to read the book .The salad looks interesting, although I'm not that big a fennel fan.

  3. That salad looks amazing - bright and unique flavors! A great compliment to the book.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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