Rated Reads

Eat Cake

by Jeanne Ray

Rated: Mild

Ruth loves to bake cakes. She goes to her happy place as she preps, measures and mixes. Her family mostly tolerates her pastime, dutifully eating what they can whenever a new confection shows up at the dinner table. She thinks her life is stressful — with a teen daughter who tries her patience and a live-in mother who, though once capable and independent, now relies on Ruth in all kinds of details — but then life really ups the ante. Her husband, Sam, a hospital administrator, is laid off, and her father, an itinerant musician long absent from her life, is injured and in need of care.

There aren’t nearly enough cakes in the world to calm Ruth now, but she bakes nonetheless.

She tries to keep the peace and make everyone happy, but it’s a losing proposition. Her mother, who had to fend for herself and Ruth for many years, hates her ex with a passion, and having him in the same house is making her decidedly unpleasant. Ruth’s father, a pianist seemingly lacking a responsibility gene, breezes in to the household and encourages Sam in his interest in boats. The two men spend their days parked on the couch watching sports.

Enter Sam’s occupational therapist friend Florence, who helps Ruth’s father with his two broken wrists but serves as a sounding board for Ruth, who is in need of friendship and support from “the outside world.” As Ruth’s world goes completely awry, Florence helps Ruth to find her way through, even using her baking as more than a sweet escape.

Eat Cake is a delectable little novel that isn’t too fluffy. I found myself empathizing thoroughly with Ruth and her challenges and questions about life, herself, and her family and marriage. I thought the novel was going a slightly predictable route as I got deep into it and was disappointed, but not too long after, I found I embraced it and enjoyed that path. The book doesn’t make everything too easy, but it’s not too bleak either. It strikes a lovely balance between sweet/airy and dense/complex. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Plus, it includes cake recipes. What’s not to love? The baker in me gobbled it up.

Rated: Mild, for some mild language use and simple references to sex.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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Eat Cake