Following the death of her beloved, activist mother Dulcie, Emily Benedict is sent to live with the grandfather she never knew she had in the small town of Mullaby, NC. It's hard enough to find your place as a teen in a new town without discovering that your grandfather is actually a shy, reclusive giant, and that your seemingly perfect mother was really quite cruel and openly disliked as a teenager. Needless to say Emily is feeling a little lost and sorely overwhelmed when she meets the strange and decidedly attractive Win Coffey whose cryptic references to their 'history' leave Emily rather curious about the past and determined to uncover the secrets surrounding her mother.
Living next door to Emily is Julia Winterson - baker extraordinaire and a woman who is counting the days until she can escape Mullaby. Having experienced a fairly troubled and turbulent youth in Mullaby herself, Julia is quick to welcome Emily and is one of the few who don't hold her mother's actions against her. Emily is sure there is something special about Julia - hoping she will be able to lend some understanding to her mother's history - and their first meeting only confirms it:
Julia laughed. It was a great laugh, and hearing it was like stepping into a spot of sunshine. That she came bearing cake seemed oddly fitting. It was like she was made of cake, light and pretty and decorated on the outside -- with her sweet laugh and pink streak to her hair -- but it was anyone's guess what was on the inside. Emily suspected it might be dark.Don't you want to meet this woman? I know I do.
Once again Sarah Addison Allen has ensnared me with her airy and enchanting storytelling. Emily was sweet and endearing in her curious, youthful confusion but I absolutely adored Julia. Adored. Admired. Aime-d. I want to spend the day baking with her or just follow her around in the hope that some of her loveliness would magically rub off on me. Her story alone is too beautiful for words and had me constantly gasping with delight. What's more, the town of Mullaby itself was also practically fit to bursting with quirky and distinct characters - all southern and all steeped in tradition and BBQ. How could you not love a place where people can see trails of butter and sugar in the air, ghost lights dancing in the trees, and wallpaper that changes according to your mood? Not to mention the constant references to Julia's delectable cakes that just might have sent me racing to the kitchen. I just knew it was gonna be good. And it was.
Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Connection review
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book source: provided by the publisher, Bantam Books