Mar 16, 2018
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
Would you like to read a novel that is about a marriage going through a rough patch but that also functions a a quasi-cookbook and a botanical reference manual? Look no further than Not Quite Happily Ever After by local author, Heidi Freestone. It is three genres wrapped into one, and maybe four as there is a little animal husbandry thrown in for extra measure. Freestone, has been tending gardens as a professional landscaper in these environs for over thirty years. In our drought prone area she has specialized in the prudent use of water and advocated for native species.
Sara, her protagonist is an environmental lawyer whose relationship with her husband is normal and nice, maybe too normal and too nice. She has a vague feeling of restlessness and discontent whose source she really cannot identify. Sara’s best friend, Jen, is in Chicago experiencing a more overt, very different type of mid-life meltdown. She is anxious and clinically depressed. Sara agrees to take in her teen-aged son for the summer to give Jen a break. Sara is also dealing with the attentions of a very flirtatious gourmet cook. Since she is very conflicted she takes solace in her cooking, her gardening and her chickens. She lives near Healdsburg.
The prequel to this piece is called Growing Home in which the author first presents the characters who are fleshed out in the sequel. The sequel stands alone but it was interesting to discover how Sara arrived in Sonoma County. Apparently she obtained the land by default in a divorce settlement. So the city girl from Chicago became a country girl and also found her perfect man which prompted one critic to ask, does the heroine always have to have a guy to feel happy and whole? Point well taken.
Most entertaining are little hints about cooking and gardening which are woven right into the fabric of the plot. Did you know that grating some lemon zest into a salad then adding black pepper and turmeric will give it zip? How about dried tomato and herb garlic bread? Or, Portobello mushrooms stuffed with celery, garlic and onions? Waffles with flax seed and nuts? Of course, I didn’t like the part about rabbit fricassee with sage as I still mourn the loss of my beloved pets.
The ending is a little too sweet but that is a minor blip. The five-hundred plus pages fly by because the author’s prose is clear, crisp and clean.
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