Thursday , February 22 2024
A Bedford wives tale: When those at the top hit bottom.

Book Review: The Summer Kitchen by Karen Weinreb

You know it’s fiction that will tell the truth when you read Weinreb’s descriptions of the lives of the wives of Bedford, New York: Women who had prior careers, but had little reason to keep working once they married their multi-millionaire husbands.

And you believe it is real life – just a class we never get to see up close, except on Desperate Housewives.

The Summer Kitchen is a well done novel and very clever, although the descriptions of daily life might seem dull to the average reader. They likely were dull to the wealthy women of Bedford, too. Some of these women led very empty lives. Face it: Most of us don’t have to hide the booty of our expensive shopping trips from our housekeepers.

The Prologue sets the tone:

"And pulling up at the school drop-off each morning in a dusty black Suburban told all the other drivers of dusty black Suburbans at school drop-off that you had all this and so were just like them. If you had ski racks on the roof, all the better. It was not an uncommon sight at the school parking lot to come across a mother clicking her remote central-locking device behind each black Suburban, one after the other, until hearing the telltale sound of car locks unlocking. There was sometimes no other way to find your car, unless you remembered where you had parked it – not likely at eight a.m. before you had picked up your five-dollar coffee from the upscale bakery Phillip’s en route to the Sawmill Cub for aerobics with Claude."

Bedford is an extremely wealthy community, and perhaps the novel is closely based on reality. The conversation turns to a resident of the next hamlet, Martha, “who can’t leave the house because of the ankle thingy.” That tells us plenty about the area.

It is Chapter Two that will stay with you through the book as characters Nora, her husband Evan, and the children’s nanny Beatriz are fully developed. Later when the plot turns, and suspense builds, you’ll be glad Weinreb built such strong characters. In today’s raw era of extreme wealth, hedge funds, and financial ruin, you'll also trace a well honed storyline as the seasons change through the book, and through life’s challenges.

In the vein of Desperate Housewives, but leaving you inspired, this novel illustrates what you can do when faced with adversity. We learn who the real role-model is in the story, and the merit of values in troubling times.

The Summer Kitchen tells a much nobler story than we see in a television drama.

About Helen Gallagher

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