Ballis is a new author to me, though she has written a total of eight books. Judging from the titles, many of them incorporate cooking and food into the book, something that will draw me every time. It also seems as though many of the books include a dog, and a different kind of dog each time. Recipe for Disaster had a miniature schnauzer, which is the kind of dog I had when I had a dog, and is probably the only kind of dog I would ever own.
I fully admit I bought the book because of the schnauzer, and was disappointed and surprised that the dog was actually kind of mean and not a bit loveable, at least to the main character, Anneke. Despite the author’s presentation of the dog, I must admit to liking this book very much.
There are many plot concepts going on. Recipe for Disaster includes recipes, a dusty journal discovered in the pantry of an old house, an abusive upbringing, best friends, all of the usual suspects included in what is referred to as chick lit, a term of which I’m not terribly fond.
In one single day Anneke loses both her job and her boyfriend. She decides to go all in on a project in which she is involved – an old house in an up-and-coming Chicago neighborhood that she has slowly been rebuilding into something magnificent. Anneke learned about old houses and construction from her stepfather, the only person who had ever loved her fully and unconditionally.
In the course of construction, Anneke comes across an old journal/cookbook written by the housekeeper/cook of the original owners back in the 1800s. Surprisingly, the book provides guidance and a sense of stability to Anneke, who also learns to cook by following the recipes.
There are some problems with the story. Ballis’ descriptions of the rehabilitation are detailed to a fault. Anyone interested in home design and/or architecture will find it fascinating. Even though I’m not particularly a home designer, I found her detailed description of the rehab project quite interesting. Still, I did a lot of skimming through those sections.
Furthermore, Ballis’ writing style is such that she uses long, detailed paragraphs, something that can become tedious reading. Nevertheless, I found the plot to be interesting and the characters likeable.
In fact, I liked the main character very much. Anneke is not a typical protagonist. She isn’t particularly attractive, she loves to eat Chicago’s delicious foods, and her weight illustrates her love for food. She is independent and has a hard time getting close to people. A surprise visitor and a strange new friendship/relationship helps Anneke to begin to trust and love.
The ending was somewhat predictable, but the journey to the ending was full of surprises.
I will definitely pick up another of Ballis’ books, and soon.
Buy Recipe for Disaster from Amazon here.
Buy Recipe for Disaster from Barnes and Noble here.
The Recipe for Disaster from Tattered Cover here.
Buy Recipe for Disaster from Changing Hands here.