Thank you for Visiting

This book club provided an opportunity to discuss books with authors from 2009 - 2013. I like to think we were a group of daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, well... women finding time to meet while juggling daily life.

I hope you enjoy exploring The Manic Mommies Book Club Archives. We read 46 books over the years, with audio or written author discussions for each book read documented on this blog.

~ with kindness & gratitude, Mari

Eating Heaven - Discussion begins today!

I have been patiently waiting to discuss Eating Heaven for a few months. Reading this book I kept thinking it would make the perfect book club selection, an insecure woman looking for love mixed with family secrets and situations. Special thanks to Jennie Shortridge for donating the books and allowing us to discuss her book online this week.

If you haven’t read the book, don’t worry… you will still be able to join in the discussion. Below is the synopsis:

Nothing gets Eleanor Samuels's heart racing like a double scoop of mocha fudge chunk. Sure, the magazine writer may have some issues aside from food, but she isn't quite ready to face them. Then her beloved Uncle Benny falls ill, and what at first seems scary and daunting becomes a blessing in disguise. Because while she cooks and cares for him-and enjoys a delicious flirtation with a new chef in town-Eleanor begins to uncover some long-buried secrets about her emotionally frayed family and may finally get the chance to become the woman she's always wanted to be.

I read this book in just a few days and I expect many women will connect to Eleanor. When the book opens we learn that Eleanor is a writer and aspiring chef (she loves to try new recipes and cook). We get the sense that she’s overweight and as part of her job she takes an original recipe and manipulates it into a healthy, low cal, low fat option. As she takes inventory of life, simply put she’s not happy. As you get to know Eleanor you might find yourself loosely comparing her to the character from ‘she’s come undone’ at the beginning and by the end Eleanor is transformed into a woman in control of her life and her future.

So to get us started, I have a several questions to guide our discussion:

- Did you like the book?

- If you were behind a dumpster with ice cream... what would you do?

- Eleanor... she's an average everyday woman. How 'big' do you think she is? Could you imagine her as a friend? What kind of advise would you give her?

- What was your opinion of Bennie and his role in the family?

- What did you like/dislike about Eleanor’s mom, Bebe? Do you know anyone like her?

- The discussion of thin versus healthy – so true. Eleanor’s mother is always nitpicking her weight, even when she’s losing it. If you have a daughter, how would you handle this situation? What advise would you give Bebe?

- Eleanor’s men – Did you take the men in her life to mean anything more than what they were? In what way is she still looking for a father?

- Benny’s illness brings the family together at the end – for anyone with a serious illness in their family, has your experience been similar? In this book Eleanor is the main caregiver and puts her life on hold. How did she feel when Benny had the incident and moves to the nursing home?

Eating Heaven: Jennie Shortridge answers our questions

Dear Manic Mommy book club members:

I'm so delighted and honored that you chose to read Eating Heaven for your June book. Your questions are intriguing, and I hope I do justice to them in my answers here. I also have a few questions of my own below!

All best wishes,

The author says in the back of the book that this book was a rework of a piece she had abandoned and then reworked. Is this final product what she envisioned when she started reworking the book? It's so much better than I imagined it could be, because by then I'd written another book and had some actual skill and craft under my belt. I'm so glad it wasn't my first book, after all. There's a reason first novels from beginners aren't usually published! I was able to more fully develop themes and ideas and characters. And the Buddy the cat made an appearance, and I loved that she was in it.

I read that the author did research on eating disorders for the book. What was her inspiration for exploring this issue in the book? I was angry (am angry) at the way our society treats women and eating and food, and I thought one way to get at that would be to have someone suffering from it in an extreme way. I have friends and family with eating disorders, something that was VERY rare until fairly recently. I didn't hear it being talked about in a very real way anywhere else, except for sensationalist news pieces on anorexics, complete with horrifying photos. I just wanted to talk about it in a real honest way, and I didn't want to do any disservice to those dealing with it, so I talked with eating disorder doctors and a nurse, friends who binge, and read everything I could find. I even sat down to binge, on purpose, one day with cookies, my favorite food. I found I couldn't get that far into the package without naturally just stopping, and I'd always thought that if I allowed myself to binge, I would. This told me so much about the actual disorder, that it is chemical and hardwired in the brain, not something that people do just because they're greedy or weak. I can definitely be both of those things, yet I couldn't binge.

Where did the recipes come from that Ellie "made" in the story? Especially the one for "shecret shauce". I wrote and tested all of the recipes, except for Shecret Shauce, which is actually my dad's special marinade, from my childhood. I called him when I was writing the book to confirm the ingredients, and he said them the same way Ellie's dad did. I had to laugh, realizing that i'd completely stolen every detail from my dad.

I love to cook, have cooked occasionally in cafes, and have been a recipe developer, so it was a natural to include Ellie's creations for Benny.

Was Bennie the father of any of the three sisters? I kind of like to leave that up to the reader. I sprinkled a lot of clues, but as with our own parents, there are things we can just never know for sure, you know? I have a feeling that whatever you're thinking is the right answer, though.

Why did Yolonda leave Benny and never divorce him? I don't remember that they didn't divorce, but I also don't remember writing that they did, so . . . It was my intention that they were split up for good. As in divorced.

Why did Bennie and Eleanor's mother never restart their relationship? If I followed the timing correctly, it seems they had at least one opportunity to restart the relationship. By the time Bebe was in a place to be with Benny he no longer wanted her. He wanted to stay with Yolanda, so Bebe took it into her own hands and poisoned that well by telling Yolanda about she and Benny. Then Benny REALLY didn't want to be with her. He rejected her.

There are many directions for personal growth and happiness at the end of the book, yet not a perfect ending (I love that the story ends this way). If you wrote a flash forward at the end of the book, how would you see Eleanor’s life? Ah. Again, that's for the reader to decide. What do you think? I hope she's still with Henry, cooking together and enjoying each other's company. I'm a romantic.

Now, my questions, or rather, some questions I get asked by other book groups:

Just how "big" is Ellie? I really wanted to portray Ellie as the woman we all feel we are when we're not at our best. I didn't want to use any numbers or measurements, just that feeling of "too big," so that everyone could relate. You know, if you say size 16, some people will think "That's not very big," while others may think that's heavy. How big did you picture her?

Where can I find Henry? I seem to have invented many women's idea of the dream date, a man who will cook for us and make us laugh and be kind and tender, and love us no matter what size we are. He's a complete figment of my imagination, I'm sorry to say, although he has my husband's facial features and kindness, and a dear friend's sense of humor.

A Reliable Wife - books claimed in record time!

I’m pleased to announce that the giveaway of our August book selection, A Reliable Wife, closed within hours of the announcement. I hope you will still read with us!

Below is the Amazon link to purchase the book, which has a Kindle and audio formats available:

Amazon, A Reliable Wife

You can purchase this audio from iTunes and Audible as well.

MMBC 7: A Reliable Wife

A Reliable Wife is our seventh selection for the MMBC. We will begin discussing the book on Wednesday, August 19th. The author & publisher have generously donated 12 books.If you are interested in participating please send me an email with your address and ‘A Reliable Wife’ in the subject line.
The book giveaway is now closed (in record time)!

Click here for details and an author interview.