Julia's Kitchen

Brenda A. Ferber, Author
Brenda A. Ferber, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $16.99 (151p) ISBN 978-0-374-39932-0
Reviewed on: 03/20/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
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Real, raw emotion emanates from this affecting debut novel, in which 11-year-old Cara's mother, Julia, and younger sister, Janie, perish in a nighttime fire in their home. Cara was spending that night at her best friend Marlee's house and her father was able to escape from the blaze. ""How did Dad get out of the house without Mom and Janie?... Where were you, God?"" she asks herself. Now that only she and Dad will be present at her Bat Mitzvah, graduations and birthdays, she asks herself, ""How would that ever be enough?"" These are some of the overwhelming questions that haunt the thoughtful, perceptive young narrator, who longs to share her grief with her despondent father, but fears, ""if I put the weight of my sadness on him, he'd break in two."" In one especially moving scene, Cara forces herself to watch football on TV with her father the way that sports-loving Janie had, ruminating that ""Maybe someday I would like football. Maybe someday Dad would love me the way he had loved Janie. The way Mom had loved me."" Hope enters the story when Cara, whose mother, an accomplished baker, ran a cookie business from home, discovers that Julia's metal recipe box survived the fire. With the help of Marlee, and initially unbeknownst to Dad, Cara resourcefully-and therapeutically-carries on her mother's business. The resilient girl credibly and satisfyingly makes peace with her father, God and herself at the close of this heartrending tale of loss and healing. Ages 10-up.
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