Some books you save for a rainy day. Season of Salt and Honey by Hannah Tunnicliffe landed on my review shelf a while ago, but I’ve been saving it. I sensed that this was a book for savouring … and I was right. The cover spoke to the foodie in me and finding out there were recipes at key points of the story ticked all my food-fiction boxes. Here’s the blurb:
Francesca ‘Frankie’ Caputo has it all figured out. She’s finally going to marry the man she loves and then they will live happily ever after. But when a freak accident cuts her fiancé Alex’s life tragically short, all of Frankie’s future plans suddenly disintegrate.
Drowning in grief, Frankie flees from her overbearing Italian-American family, and escapes to an abandoned cabin owned by Alex’s parents in a remote part of Washington forest.
As her heart slowly begins to heal, Frankie discovers a freedom that’s both exhilarating and unsettling to everything she has always known for sure. So when her old life comes crashing back in, Frankie must decide: will she slip quietly back into her safe, former existence? Or will a stronger, wiser Frankie Caputo stand up and claim her new life?
Beautifully bittersweet, Season of Salt and Honey is most definitely a comfort read. It’s a wrap-yourself-in-a-blanket, snuggle on the couch and eat chocolate (or popcorn or whatever your vice) read. Themes of loss and love are explored with authenticity and compassion, but flavoured with the hearty, not-quite-overwhelming love of family. The Italian notion that “to love someone, to make them happy, means ensuring they are fed” (p46), charmingly expressed throughout this novel, speaks to me. I love cooking for my family, and it makes me happy when I see them enjoying what I’ve made, or that it somehow brings them comfort. I also loved this paragraph comparing Frankie and Alex’s family – sometimes she feels that her family is smothering … but she wouldn’t have it any other way. My kids probably think the same about me.
“Our family was the opposite; love poured out and over, in all its various forms. As food, or criticism, or the tears Aunty Rosa shed as if on cue … However it comes, it comes – as with the bowls of pasta – in abundance. Lashings and lashings of it.” (p47)
As much a story of loss and love, Season of Salt and Honey is about family and friendship. Two families are contrasted – the Caputos and the Gardeners – and their styles of love are vastly different. Tunnicliffe could have left it at that, left the Gardner’s looking on the reserved, if not cold, side, but, in a move of compassion, the hurts that defined the Gardners’ family life are revealed, allowing understanding to seep in. Tunnicliffe also brings together a mixed bunch of friends to nurture Frankie as she deals with grief and some unexpected news; one of them, Jack, emerges as a possible love interest, but this was dealt with sensitively and with no sense of rushing in.
I really enjoyed this book – it’s exactly my kind of read. And yes, I will be trying out the recipes – the hard thing will be deciding which to cook first. One thing: save this book for when there’s no chance of being interrupted.
Available from good bookstores and Pan Macmillan (RRP $29.99). My copy was courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television