Recipe for a Happy Life by Brenda Janowitz ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Target audience: adult
Keywords: summer in the Hamptons, mothers/daughters, moving forward
Format read: ARC eBook provided by author. (Thank you!)
Summary: After a mini-disaster, Hannah, a lawyer in NYC, escapes to the Hamptons for the summer to spend time with her grandmother and figure things out.
When it’s starting to get super frigid outside, there’s nothing like reading a book about the summertime.
Recipe for a Happy Life contains so many of the details I love to read about: the Hamptons, complicated grandmother/mother/ daughter relationships, and a perfect pinch of romance to spice things up.
Hannah is at her wit’s end when her boyfriend’s mother accuses her of trying to kill her boyfriend (it was a mistake! he’s alive!) and runs off to the comfort of her grandmother. Never being close with her always on the go, legendary photographer mother, Hannah finds comfort in her glamorous and generous grandmother (who has been married multiple times) and though she never feels like she can live up to her grandmother’s expectations, she is happy to be in her presence. (Even if this means attending parties she doesn’t want to go to and being dressed up in expensive clothes.)
As you can probably guess, Hannah’s hope for a “no drama” few months in the Hamptons is anything but. When she bumps into Nate, a guy she went to law school with and pretty much loathes, she can’t seem to get rid of him and soon realizes, maybe she doesn’t really want to. Then there’s her mother’s visit, countless frosty interactions and a hidden family secret that comes to the surface and threatens to break bonds just as more bad news comes crashing down.
It may seem like a lot (and it is, for one summer) but Janowitz balances all of the unfortunate news with some vibrant supporting characters like the charming Nate, rock star Jaime, and teenaged Hunter who injects a certain amount of innocence and comedy into these pages. I swear, his character is so memorable and I loved how Hunter and Hannah formed an unlikely (but much needed for both) bond during this summer. Janowitz’s attention to her secondary characters truly made Recipe for a Happy Life stand out amongst other beachy dramas.
This book was practically burning a hole in my bag. Every time I had to put it down, I couldn’t wait for the next free moment when I could pick it up again. All of the life-altering events that occur during Hannah’s summer seem so necessary to her growth as a person and also assisted her in letting go of old prejudices she had held onto for years. By the end of the book, she is more independent, more understanding of her family, and also has a clearer focus on what she wants for the future.
I am officially a Brenda Janowitz fan!