I live in Chicago and have a midwestern soul, but I've always been interested in Southern American culture. I also enjoy infiltrating the strange and unique landscape of new cultures in the books I choose to read. Simmer and Smoke satisfied my cravings (sorry for the pun) on both levels.
Her characterization of hip, food-blogging, love-sick Mallory was super entertaining, and Mallory’s struggles with bad things happening (NOT a spoiler), and alcohol/prescription drug addiction complemented the entertainment with a bit of heart-wrenching I look for. But it was Shelby I most loved; a young woman from a low-life town who moves to Atlanta with aspirations of becoming a chef. In fact, I’m pretty sure I met them both on my last trip down south to stay with a close childhood friend...
The story is told alternating between the voices of these woman; women so dissimilar in background yet so close in spirit. A hiccup in my read: is education in small towns such as Coryville so ill-funded that kids have to bring in their own toilet paper because of lack of funding? Really? Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but an effective one.
I think Simmer and Smoke is a perfect read for book clubs - it's a story about the strong bonds of motherhood, friendship and the complications of romance. The cookbook correlating with Mallory’s food blogging that follows the book’s conclusion is a bonus, and should make book clubs even more entertaining and delicious.