Cakes Have Gotten a Bad Rap
September 23, 2010
“Cakes have gotten a bad rap….A cake is a party, a birthday, a wedding. A cake is what’s served on the happiest days of your life.”
Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray is like a wonderful dessert--sweet, satisfying, and full of surprises. The troubles of the main character, Ruth Hopson, are a representation of our times. She is a loving and patient woman whose husband has suddenly and shockingly lost his job as a hospital administrator, whose mother has moved in to live with her for an indefinite period of time, and whose teen-aged daughter comes complete with all the maddening qualities endemic to sixteen-year-old females. Ruth, a member of the “sandwich” generation, bakes cakes--wonderful cakes, all kinds of cakes--in order to relieve the stress of her everyday life. The stress and the cakes really start to multiply when, early in the story, she receives a phone call from her long-absent father, Guy, a charming musician who separated from her mother when Ruth was two years old, and who has been in her life only sporadically for the past forty-nine years. Guy, it seems, has fallen down a flight of stairs and broken both his arms. He needs constant care; he has no one to turn to and nowhere to go. Ruth, the kindest of women, takes him in, much to the chagrin of her tart-tongued and long-suffering mother. As Ruth learns to navigate through all these troubles, creaming sugar and butter and sifting flour at four in the morning, we are treated to some very charming characters. Ruth’s husband Sam is a rock-solid presence in her life, and their tender and caring exchanges form a terrific backdrop to the explosive relationship that emerges between Ruth’s parents, a pair of septuagenarians that lob verbal zingers at each other from the moment Guy arrives in the house. No less entertaining is the gradual revelation of the personality of Ruth and Sam’s daughter Camille, who possesses hidden talents that belie her eye-rolling, door-slamming adolescent behavior. The cakes themselves slyly and subtly become minor characters in the book, lovingly described by the author so that the reader can almost savor each bite.
Eat Cake is a novel about human relationships and the redemption that can be found in doing what you love most, even when doing so requires an enormous leap of faith. Reading it will leave you longing for seconds.
Oak Grove Branch