Sunday, February 3, 2013

On the Farm: A Review of Back to the Good Fortune Diner by Vicki Essex

Back to the Good Fortune Diner Our second book for the month is yet another small town contemporary romance. It's the story of Tiffany, who has to return home after losing her job in New York. She's not thrilled to be back home with her judgmental parents and too perfect brother, or to be working in their Chinese restaurant.  But on the plus side, she gets to reconnect with Chris, her crush from high school. Chris is grown up now, running his family farm, and has a teenage son in need of tutoring. Asking Tiffany for help with his son seems natural, since she once tutored Chris into college. Chris is surprised, though, to see Tiffany in a new and attractive light after all these years. 

One of the reasons I chose to read this book was the setting. I was thinking that it would take place mostly in the Chinese diner, and I'm very fond of Chinese diners. Unfortunately, most of it takes place outside of the diner and the parts that do take place in the diner aren't the happiest. Tiffany has a lot of family troubles.

Nevertheless, the book is very well written and not without it's charms. I really enjoyed Chris--he's hard working, loves his son, and makes the most out of a life many would consider constricting. His relationship with both his son and his aging father felt brutally real, but not without love. The same goes with Tiffany and her parents, actually, I especially liked Tiffany's relationship with her brother, Daniel, and how she had to come to terms with the old scars caused by sibling rivalry.

I did like the relationship building between Chris and Tiffany, although I wouldn't say I loved it. I liked that they were old friends, in a way, and I liked that the process of them rediscovering each other. Chris admits to not really having seen Tiffany as the full three dimensional person that she is back in high school, and once he does start to see more of her he genuinely loves her.

I also really liked the way that the author addressed racism in a very non-preachy way. Chris's father, in particular, is painfully awkward in his casual racism. The scene where Tiffany finally sets him straight is pretty satisfying.

The primary thing that I didn't like about this story was the path that Tiffany's character development took. When the story begins, she seems to love all of the things about the city, and she has worthy goals that she's worked her entire life for. Ultimately, though, the lesson that she learns is that she has to give some of that...pretty much all of it up in the name of love. I felt kind of bad for her in that respect, because I'm not sure how happy she'll be long term.

Overall, I did really enjoy this book. It's a familiar sort of story with a few creative twists. Certainly worth reading. 3.5 stars.

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