I am a fan of Judith Hendricks work and have read and enjoyed two of her previous novels, Bread Alone and Baker's Apprentice.
Ms. Hendricks writes novels that are rich in content, character driven and includes a foodie focus on food and cooking. I was thrilled when I learned that I was chosen as part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program to review The Laws of Harmony. This novel definitely continues the pattern that I found in her other books and does not disappoint.
This is the story of Sunny Cooper who grew up in New Mexico on a commune. Her life was affected in many ways as she grew up in this environment both in positive and negative ways. A tragic event made a great impact on her life and as a reader you learn what this event is as Sunny confronts and faces this as an adult. As an adult, in her 30's, she is living in Albuquerque, and finds herself in a relationship with Michael and a best friend Betsy who both betray her in many different ways. Sunny makes a choice to pick up and start over somewhere else and ends up in the town of Harmony on San Miguel Island. She ends up with a new job, makes some wonderful new friends and even learns to ride a motorcycle. She learns she must confront her past to move forward and has an unexpected reunion with her estranged mother.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Laws of Harmony. I liked seeing how Sunny changes and grows as a character and reading about the details of her life growing up on a commune was very interesting. My favorite part of the book was Sunny's life in Harmony which sounds like a charming town with wonderful characters. Sunny made many friends that appear to be true and strong friends that truly care about her. Her mother, Gwen, is another interesting character and I liked how Ms. Hendricks explained why she chose to live her life and raise her family on a commune. It was very fascinating to read about this lifestyle and how it affected the whole family in many positive and negative ways. As a reader, it made me think about what a "normal" family is and that there really is not a "normal". It is different for everyone based on our experiences and what our family of origin and environment is like. I believe that it is what we make of those experiences that effect us as adults and how we choose to learn from them.
The Laws of Harmony would be a great book for a book club discussion. I am going to suggest it to my book club for over the summer. There is a readers guide (you can find a reading guide here) and an author interview (found here) at the end of the book. You can contact Ms.Hendricks to talk to your book group about any of her books for details, go here. Listen to a discussion with Judith Hendricks about The Laws of Harmony with Book Club Girl at Blogtalk Radio, here. This was a wonderful interview and discussion and I was thrilled to hear that Ms. Hendricks is considering a sequel to The Laws of Harmony. There is definitely much more to uncover in this story and to reveal about Sunny's future and her relationships with other characters in the book.
As I mentioned, Ms. Hendricks books have all had a foodie focus on food and cooking. I love reading books that have a culinary focus, fiction or nonfiction. The Laws of Harmony incorporates the southwestern themes of cooking on the mesa where Sunny grows up in the commune as well as in Sunny's adult life. Sunny has worked in several restaurants and enjoys cooking and baking and her character makes many delicious meals and desserts that sound delectable. The one that stands out is Sunny's Blue Ribbon Blackberry Brownies. These sound heavenly and Ms. Hendricks has created a recipe for them and it is featured on her website, you can find the recipe here. I am definitely going to make these, they would be great as a dessert at a book club discussion for The Laws of Harmony.
If you haven't read a book by Judith Hendricks, this would be a great book to start with. If you have already read books by Ms. Hendricks and enjoyed them, you will definitely enjoy The Laws of Harmony. Be sure to check out Judith Hendricks website, here. You can read an excerpt, here.