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Sara

 

Sara and me

I participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) to me if you purchase any books I recommend, or products that I buy and feature on my food blog. 

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Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children. The book is heartbreaking, but one of those that everyone should read. The hardship, the hunger, the dirt and dust, the failed crops, the lack of rain, then the story picks up again in central California, back in the day when the wealthy growers just used up the migrants. I don’t want to spoil the story. So worth reading. Hannah really knows how to weave a story.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks. The father was very dark, but he plays no part, really, in this story. Growing up, the girls leave home at 18 to find their way in New Orleans. Suddenly, one twin disappears (her clothes and suitcase all gone in the wink of an eye). Her twin left behind has no idea what’s happened to her. As the story reveals, with divided paths, one twin continues her life as a black woman, and the other twin, the one who left, is able to pass as a white woman. She marries well, has a daughter. Well, let’s just say that there are lots of wicked webs woven throughout the story, starting from the girls’ mother who never wants to speak again of her lost daughter. But you know where this is going, don’t you? Things are found out. The author does a great job of weaving the story apart and then back together.

Kathleen Wheeler has written quite a family story. Brought To Our Senses: A Family Saga Novel. The title calls it a saga, but two generations don’t make a saga – to me anyway. But that’s not the story . . . this is a book about dementia or Alzheimer’s, and it’s hard to read in many places. The mother, the matriarch, is in denial for years and years about her problems. Some of the children are also in denial. The daughters don’t all get along. The son moved away and chooses (mostly) to be absent for most of the drama. Such a sad, sad story, but could be and is real for lots of people with relatives, loved ones who suffer from this awful disease. There is resolution at the end (with the children, all adults, of course). But the mother’s downhill slope is so graphic and realistic. I don’t wish to stick my head in the sand because I know many families suffer through the kinds of angst written here. It’s just so hard to read. Good book, though.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress. She was a brilliant mind, and a beautiful woman. It tells the story of her coming of age, how she navigated the world of acting back in that time period (she was Austrian, and Hitler was in power). The writing was very well done – to tell Hedy’s story with detail and poignancy. Eventually Hedy made it to the U.S. and her life story changed, but still had its difficulties. I loved the book, beginning to end. She should have become an engineer as she invented several war related bomb tools. Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, when aristocrats were chased and killed, guillotined in many cases. There is a young couple (part of the royal court) who escape to a remote small castle owned by his family, located on the edge of France and Italy, hoping to wait out the revolution and hoping the villagers love and care about them. Then jump to current day as a small English group of close friends decide to retire somewhere on the continent, and settle on a small abandoned castle in the remote hills of France along the Italian border. Got the picture? The historian in the group is quite interested in the history of the home, and clues are revealed (in the tower) that lead her and the group on a quest to discover what happened to the couple who used to live there. There was a fire once upon a time. There’s an pesky ghost. There’s also a very old child’s doll/playhouse on the grounds. Plus there’s a small graveyard. It is VERY intriguing. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Agathe von Trapp was the eldest daughter of the renowned von Trapp family. Some years ago she wrote Memories Before and After the Sound of Music: An Autobiography beginning from her first memories at age 2 (yes, really!). The book tells the honest-truth about the family’s life in Austria and Italy prior to the war, and debunks many of the story lines from the musical, The Sound of Music. Liesl, the part played by Charmian Carr, was supposedly the story of Agathe. But it wasn’t, really. As long as you know that the musical and movie were written and changed to make a story for the stage and film, then reading the true stories about their family life, their escape (by train from Italy, with no problems at all, no hiding in an abbey) and eventual settling in Stowe, Vermont, where there still is a family lodge for paying guests. The family singers toured for many years, and earned enough barely money to then survive for some months in Vermont, practicing and gearing up for their next national or world tour. One of the sad parts for me was reading that although Maria von Trapp certainly kept the family together, her step-children didn’t necessarily love and adore her. They say she was quite selfish. A good enough read. Not a long book, and not exactly an example of fine, non-fiction literature, but still, it kept my interest mostly because I’ve been a fan of the movie ever since it came out in 1965-66.

Sarah Steele wrote a quite intricate book – probably more interesting to a woman anyway – called The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon. A young woman going through a breakup of her marriage, and the death of her grandmother, finds a box in the relative’s wardrobe. In it are fabric swatches attached to dress patterns, and a postcard of a woman wearing the dress. It’s all quite mysterious. Florence decides she should re-create the dresses and the journeys. Quite an interesting theme for a book, and it’s well done here. Travel to the Riviera is included, and some fun encounters with new friends. Well worth reading.

I’ve been a fan of C.J. Box for several years. Have read most of his books. Mysteries of a sheriff in Wyoming, solving murders, usually. Box has a gift of suspense. This new book, Long Range (A Joe Pickett Novel) This one starts with the after-effects of a deadly grizzly bear attack, then extends to the murder of a judge’s wife. All interconnected, and complicated. The book was too short . . . I always want more.

Tracy Chevalier has written another fascinating book . . . A Single Thread: A Novel. The time period is between the wars, Britain. So many spinsters were left following the war, and Violet doesn’t want to become an embittered woman, caring for her angry, feeble and declining mother. So she moves on to Winchester. She works at a ho-hum job, but also becomes a volunteer at the Cathedral (ever been there? gorgeous), helping to make needlepoint kneeling pads. There are traditions even for kneeling pads (yes, really), and Violet takes this very seriously. There’s a love story woven into the fabric of this story too, and how Violet blooms and grows. Chevalier has a way with words. A good read.

An unusual book, The Weight of a Piano: A novel by Chris Cander. It begins in 1962 in Russia, a young girl is gifted a Blüthner piano. She has real skill and hopes to keep it forever. Yet, once she marries, she must leave it behind when she emigrates to the U.S. Thence the story begins, of what happens to the piano, its interim stops (even a bit about how the piano feels –  yes, some surrealism here). And about how it survives the voyage to America itself. I don’t want to give it away. You’ll learn a LOT about pianos and equally as much about Blüthner ones, how they’re made. The book does not have a happy ending – at least not in my opinion, if that’s something that’s important to you. Quite a story; and again, unusual.

Erik Larson’s tome, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. This book covers the “reign” of Winston Churchill during the height of WWII. You’ll learn so much more about him. About the war. About the inner workings of the British government, including political. I’m a great admirer of the late Mr. Churchill. One of my more recent trips to England I visited Chartwell, the family home and where Winston died. If you’ve never been there, do add it to your itinerary next time. Beautiful grounds, including the small studio he used to paint.

Ken Follett is one of my fav authors, and I pre-ordered his newest, The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge), which is a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel (Kingsbridge), my all-time favorite book I’ve ever read in my life. Time period: 975 to about 1007 or so. Give or take. It follows a poor, but eager and intelligent builder as he earns his trade. It’s about his loves. His failures. The families all around, and much about the ever-present church (and its leaders, some honest, many not). Could hardly put the book down. Love Follett’s style of writing.

Every so often I read a romance of some kind. Historical ones mostly. And most I don’t include them here. But one I liked a lot is The Secrets of Saffron Hall by Clare Marchant. It happens to be very inexpensive right now on amazon, on Kindle, in case you’re interested. It jumps from 1538 and to 2019. Having to do with a precious book, a Book of Hours, and what secrets it contains. The growing of saffron plays large here and both romance in Tudor times and a tenuous marriage in current time, but nearly all of it takes place at a Tudor castle. Loved the book.

The book Where the Blind Horse Sings: Love and Healing at an Animal Sanctuary shares the story of a number of animals brought to an animal sanctuary in the Catskills. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy the stories, each animal bringing more to the human-animal relationship than you might even guess. Profound stories of love of animals. Not a long book; I think I got it as a bargain book from bookbub.

The title caught my attention on this one: Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim by Sabeeha Rehman. She’s written her own autobiography, beginning when she was a young child in Pakistan, to her eventual settling in New York. It’s about the Muslim experience. Their beliefs, their customs and traditions, told in a very pleasing and informational way. She marries in American Pakistani Muslim (an arranged marriage) and it’s the story of everything. Nothing much is left out of the journey she made, and still makes. She became a kind of activist for her religion, trying to bring Muslim customs to integrate into American culture (not always an easy task). Her husband is a doctor; she a hospital administrator. Likely you’ll learn more than you thought about Muslims. Very well written. Enjoyed it very much.

Finished Chinn’s story, The English Wife. What a great read. Could hardly put it down. I’m reading 3-4 books a week these days, and am so happy when I have a book I can’t wait to get back to. Really the story is about two sisters. Partly in Norwich, England, then in Newfoundland. One there, one here. And some of it takes place during WWII in Norwich, and much of it Newfoundland, then, and more recent. I loved the part of the book that took place on 9/11 when flights were diverted to Newfoundland. Family secrets, family lies, much anger between the sisters. There’s romance. There’s war. There is love of family. Particularly I savored the descriptions of Newfoundland, mostly rock, if you’ve never been there. It’s a twisted tale, by that I mean the family secrets which become the undoing. It’s a bargain on amazon right now, as I write this.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

Jamie Ford has written another good one, Love and Other Consolation Prizes. Remember, he wrote The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Loved that book. This one takes on a rather ugly part of America’s past, when Chinese people were treated like trinkets. Ernest Young is such a boy, who ends up being a “prize” at an event, and with great angst, ends up as a kind of servant at a high-class bordello in Seattle. Yet, the women and girls there become HIS family. He is intelligent and learns many lessons. Eventually, when society women battle to close down such houses of ill repute, he leaves that life, with his wife. They have children. The bulk of the book is about the early years around the turn of the 20th century, then you pick up the threads nearing the end of his life, and his wife’s. There are any number of small mysteries, which unravel with a word here or there – you know that word foreshadowing? Really interesting read.

In between more literary novels, I bought a comedic memoir . . . Juliette Sobanet’s Meet Me in Paris. There’s the falling apart of a marriage (and divorce), but in the inbetween, she decides to take a trip (sans husband) around Europe to get her head straight. The kind of tour that would drive me crazy, but it was one night, maybe two at each major city. She knew no one, but soon enough bonds with  three other women. Then she has a chance-meeting of a young Frenchman who had been an exchange student in her home town. They’d lost touch, yet there were definitely sparks there, never realized. Some of the touristy stuff was trite, I must say, although the women do try to take in all the major sites, if only for a few minutes. There is plenty of humor. Some steamy stuff too as she meets up with the young man in another city. Apparently it’s a happy-ever-after story. Great literature it is not, but it was a fun romp, so to speak.

Recently finished Thomas Nelson’s The Hideaway. It seems like there are SO many novels out there about families finding, inheriting or otherwise going to an old house with memories. Especially ones on the water. With stories to tell. It’s a great way to introduce some light mystery to the telling of some other family story. In this case it’s Sara’s grandmother who was enigmatic in every way. And Sara inherits the run-down, ramshackle B&B on Mobile Bay. Cute story with lots of twists and turns.

Also just finished James Conroyd Martin’s Fortune’s Child: A Novel of Empress Theodora (Book 1 of 2). Theodora grew up the daughter of a circus performer, but then moved onto “the boards,” as acting was called back in Byzantine times (Constantinople, 6th century). She always had high expectations – she just “knew” she was going to accomplish great things. She was an occasional prostitute, a mistress, and then, behold, the son of Emperor Justin is mesmerized by her beauty, takes her on, and makes her his wife, amid much royal machinations. A young eunuch also plays large in the story too, a man hopelessly in love with Thea, but knows his love can never be returned or fulfilled. He becomes an historian to the Empress. Quite a story – much of it chronicles her early life and not a lot of it in Constantinople. But riveting story.

I’m doing SO much reading of late. Read this book in one day. The Glass Hotel: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel. Loosely based on the story of Bernie Madoff (Ponzi scheme), it tells a novelized version of a man with incredible power and charisma who gathers a group of willing partners. It’s about the people he cuckolded, and the people who took him down. At the beginning drugs come into play and I almost didn’t continue, but that was a very short section. Well worth reading. Lots to discuss if you’re looking for a book club read.

Once in awhile I read a poignant animal story, as you know if you’ve followed this sidebar for any length of time. Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other by Craig Gross, tells the story of his military duty in Afghanistan, in a war zone. And how his unit befriended a dog, a stray, and how that dog really did become his lifeline.

Cara Wall’s new book, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel. It tells the story of two couples. The two husbands become co-pastors of a New York City church. The wives? Oh my, are they ever different. They don’t abide. The husbands try to get a grip on their jobs, pastoring, preaching, and keeping the wives happy.

Loved-loved Gregory Buford’s humorous memoir, Kept: An American Househusband in India. He aims to be a U.S. diplomat, takes the tests and fails. On a whim, his wife takes the test and is hired. Their first assignment: Chennai, India. They spent two years there, with his much-loved wife going off to do diplomatic duties (albeit at a low level – everyone must pay their dues at the beginning) and Greg is left at home to deal with the servants, the house, the beggars, the nanny, the construction next door, shopping, and also partly caring for their infant.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Shirley Ann Grau’s book, The Keepers of the House. Hmmm. Much to think about. [from an amazon review]: There is a reason it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Seven generations of Howlands have lived on this rural Alabama plantation in good times and bad. It tells the story of this family from the time its patriarch settled the land in the early 1800s to the mid-20th century.

Marie Martin wrote Harbored Secrets. From amazon: In May of 1935, Blinny Platt’s homestead shack burns to the ground forever leaving her family asunder, scattering them like the embers flew on the Montana wind. She was only 8, sent away and in charge of her little sister. She could handle that because Platts take care of Platts. However, it is the hidden secrets of her parents smoldering beneath the charred remains that haunts Blinny until 1982.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

Alan Hlad has written quite a novel. From true life. The Long Flight Home. It tells the story based on family history, of the homing pigeons that were used in Britain during WWII that flew back and forth across the English Channel into German-occupied France. It’s a heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching sometimes. War is an awful thing no matter which side you’re on when it comes to how it affects everyday people. You’ll learn a lot about pigeons, but also about love. Great read.

Riveted to Katie Munnick’s novel The Heart Beats in Secret. It begins in Scotland in 1940. A woman, a single mother. A journey across the sea. Then her daughter’s story, and finally the granddaughter’s story, when she inherits her grandmother’s old cottage back in Scotland. Plenty of mother-daughter dysfunction. But it comes right in the end.

Sarah Vallance has written a book about her devastating brain injury. Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. What a story. What a saga of her recovery. And how she did it. An open wide sharing of her angst, her anger, her journey. Well worth reading. If you have anyone who has suffered a brain injury, it would be wise reading.

Just love all of Amy Harmon’s books. This one is no exception. Where the Lost Wander: A Novel. A pioneer story of a young woman made a widow on the trail to the west. 1850s. As it was in life, tragedies occur. But there is caring and love too. Loved it.

Read Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast.  The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends).

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II about a weary Italian soldier.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with her distant heritage.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. It’s about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt.  You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. 

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who  lacks self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. Sweet story.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee. Everyone should read this one.

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. DIdn’t like it much, but others do.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

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Posted in Uncategorized, on November 5th, 2011.

costcopumpkinpie

Most likely half of you already get Costco’s little magazine. If you haven’t noticed, they’ve really upped the ante with the magazine – it’s very informative these days, and I do look through it from cover to cover.

The most current issue shows a photo of Chris Kimball (from Cook’s Illustrated in Boston). They interviewed him, and he talked about how the magazine (meaning the test kitchen) buys lots of things from Costco, and he’s a frequent shopper there too. Also contained in the issue was a one-page article about pumpkin pie. Their pumpkin pie.

So, here are the Costco pumpkin pie facts – per year:

  • They make 4.7 MILLION pumpkin pies
  • They use 6.3 MILLION pounds of canned pumpkin (in #10 cans – each can holds about a quart of pumpkin puree)
  • About 4.8 MILLION pounds of sugar and spices are used
  • About 2 MILLION pounds of fresh whole eggs go into them

torn_sheetAll of the pumpkins are grown and harvested in a 700-acre area near Peoria, Illinois. About 174 truck loads of pumpkins are locally processed into the 1 million #10 cans. Those cans are shipped to all the Costco bakeries across the country. Costco made their first pumpkin pie in 1987 and sold it for $5.99. In 1993 (that’s 18 years ago!) they increased the size of the pie to 12”, but left the price the same. Yea for Costco! And did you know or ever notice that each pie weighs about 3 1/2 POUNDS! Costco pumpkin pies are just as good as I can make them, I think. You’ve read it here before, that I buy their pies every year now and I measure it up against the standard Libby’s, and I think it is right up there. Maybe not the pie crust, but the pie filling for sure.

Below is a picture of the ingredient label on Costco’s pumpkin pie. It says it contains: pumpkin, sugar, water, eggs, enriched wheat flour (wheat flour, ferrous sulfate, niacin, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), canola and/or soybean oil, nonfat milk, corn syrup, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, spices, corn sugar, mono & diglycerides, modified food starch. And down below it says that yes, the pies are produced in a kitchen that also processes peanuts and tree nuts. So not safe for people with nut allergies. Picture of the label – taken November, 2017.

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  1. mike

    said on November 21st, 2012:

    Not exactly everything I would want to know.

    Why does Costco use Soybean and Canola oil? Why is their pie full of GMO corn products… corn sugar, corn syrup, corn starch.

    The recipe has changed a lot over the years. They are not nearly as good as they used to be. I do not know if the old pies in the cardboard boxes measured 12″ or not but the new ones are 11″.

    It’s sad to see the quality of Costco products diminish.

    Well, you’re right about not everything to know . . I only wrote up what I’d read in the Costco magazine. Obviously they’re trying to market the darned things. I didn’t buy them until about 3-4 years ago, and perhaps they did change the recipe. I think they taste fairly close to Libby’s recipe, which is my standard. Since I always feed a fairly big crowd for Thanksgiving, and I appreciate helpers – I’m glad for any/all assistance. One year our daughter bought these pies and I decided we weren’t going back to home made. Thanksgiving Dinner is such a labor-intensive meal (for me) that I have decided to cut some corners here and there. As for the GMO corn stuff – you’re absolutely right. I’d prefer not to eat them, but the option is make my own. Or buy them somewhere else, but I like Costco’s attempt to make theirs taste like the much-loved Libby’s. . . carolyn t

  2. Rebecca

    said on November 21st, 2014:

    I second Mike’s comment. Why is Costco’s pie full of cheap oils and GMO ingredients? Quality certainly has gone down.

    This year I bought a Costco pie a couple of weeks ago and I noticed that it contained some gritty ingredients – don’t know if it was a smidgen of stem, or seeds? Have no idea. I’ve not encountered that before. But then I went to someone else’s home and they served it also. And guess what? It had some of that gritty stuff in it too. I suppose I should complain. I’m disappointed. . . carolyn t

  3. M.A.Andrews

    said on November 22nd, 2014:

    Do Costco pumpkin pies have High Fructose Corn syrup in them? Thank you.

    I don’t know for sure. I rather doubt it, but don’t quote me. I’d have to look at the label. Next time I’m in Costco I’ll look, if I can remember to do it . .. .carolyn t

  4. Austin

    said on October 16th, 2015:

    Are you suppose to cook them.

    No, Costco’s pumpkin pies are already baked, and ready to eat. . . carolyn t

  5. Jay

    said on December 26th, 2015:

    http://www.seattletimes.com/life/food-drink/costco-has-pumpkin-pies-down-to-a-science/

    I enjoyed reading that. I wouldn’t be surprised if Costco makes more than a million pies these days. . . carolyn t

  6. Jeff

    said on October 3rd, 2016:

    Our family has loved these pies for years. I noticed the last 2 years the pies seemed undercooked. I was wondering if I could rebake it???

    I’m sure you could. Not more than 15 minutes. At about 300 degrees. That’s just a guess. . . Carolyn T

  7. eilene crosier

    said on October 4th, 2016:

    i bought a Costco pumpkin pie today dated best before Oct. 6, 2016. Should it be frozen if were’re not eating it until oct. 10th? Thank you.

    It will be fine until the 10th

  8. Rhonda

    said on October 6th, 2016:

    Wondering why they add sulphites and carrageenan to the pumpkin pie? My mom is sensitive to sulphites and some research suggests none of us should be eating carageenan. Too bad, because it’s a nice looking pie, but I we won’t be eating it, or getting another until the recipe changes for the better.

    I had no idea they added those things. Too bad. . . Carolyn T

  9. sherry lacorte

    said on October 8th, 2016:

    Does your pumpkin pie contain dairy? I read that dry
    ingredients are added to the pumpkin mix, along with eggs,
    but you do not say what is in the dry ingredients. We love
    the pie but can no longer eat lactose so need to know
    whether dairy is contained in the pie.

    I’m sorry – I don’t know. Why don’t you call your local Costco and ask them – or contact their corporate people. I THINK they make them at hundreds of their different bakery kitchens. . . carolyn t

  10. Cyci

    said on November 16th, 2016:

    What are the dry spices in costco pumpkin pie?

    If, in fact, Costco’s pie is a mimic of Libby’s, then they use cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Nothing else. I don’t have the label to look at, so I’m not sure. If I buy one in the next week, I’ll look to see if they define which ones. . . carolyn t

  11. Reading suzy

    said on November 24th, 2016:

    My goodness! If you have so many questions about Costco pumpkin pies you should just make your own. But be sure to make your own crust and not Pillsbury, because that is probably full of the same stuff you don’t like about Costco pies. Filling is pumpkin puree, spices and fresh eggs, made fresh at each Costco store.

    I love Costco pumpkin pies – have for many many years and had them again this year. So much easier than making them myself. Even though the crust isn’t home made, it’s gosh darned good. . . sure never intended to imply I didn’t like them, cuz I do. . . carolyn t

  12. Theo

    said on January 7th, 2017:

    Obviously a frozen pie…tastes OK but the texture is always a problem for me. Why can’t they just make nice fresh pies and charge what that actually costs???

    I don’t understand your comment – Costco’s pumpkin pies aren’t frozen. To the best of my knowledge, they’re made fresh almost every day during prime season from Oct-Dec. And, the big pie is very inexpensive, in my opinion at about $6. . . carolyn t

  13. Mel

    said on October 25th, 2017:

    Just bought a Costco pumpkin pie, haven’t purchase one for several years…but I was really looking forward to a slice. Extremely disappointed! What did they do to their delicious pumpkin pie??? It used to be as good as mine…but no longer 🙁

    Oh my goodness! I haven’t tried one since last fall, 2016. They’ll likely get lots of complaints, so hopefully they’ll go back to the usual recipe. . . carolyn t

  14. Doug

    said on November 15th, 2017:

    Does Costco usually continue baking pumpkin pies up to Thanksgiving Day or even to the end of the year?

    My local Costco sells pumpkin pie about 4-5 months of the year, through January 1st, for sure. Don’t know about every one of them, however. . . carolyn t

  15. Mary Lou

    said on November 17th, 2017:

    Is the filling gluten free?

    Hmmm. I think so, but don’t quote me on that. I don’t a pie here to check – the label should be specific about what’s in the crust and what’s in the filling. . . carolyn t

  16. Judy

    said on November 18th, 2017:

    What are the dimensions of the pumpkin pie? I have to refrigerate it to transport it to my dinner destination and don’t know if it will fit in my cooler.

    Oh, goodness, I don’t know. But it’s BIG. Probably at least 13 inches square, maybe 13 1/2. I’m not sure. I guess I DON’T know everything there is to know about that pie!! . . . carolyn t

  17. Colette

    said on November 21st, 2017:

    Can I cut out a slice or two in advance of my company if I don’t care what the pie looks like? Will it change the consistency for the remaining refrigerated pieces? We’re only having a couple of people and there’s plenty of pie to start eating now. Thanks!

    Definitely, you can. The pumpkin filling is quite firm and holds up well . . . carolyn t

  18. Pies are great but how many calories are in it

    said on November 22nd, 2017:

    How many calories

    A slice that’s 1 1/2″ wide at the edge is 310 calories. That’s small, so I’d guess more, and if you add whipped cream (I do, for sure) then it’s probably well over 400 calories. If you don’t eat the crust you’ll be reducing a good percentage of the calories, but heck, that’s no fun! They base the calories on each pie cut into 12 slices. . . carolyn t

  19. Steve fenner

    said on November 22nd, 2017:

    Love it

  20. Steve fenner

    said on November 22nd, 2017:

    Love those pies how many calories?

    Each 1 1/2″ wide slice is 310 calories. That’s smaller than a standard slice, so I’d guess it’s probably over 400 calories for a 2″ slice. Then there’s whipped cream. They base the calories on each pie serving 12 people . . . . carolyn t

  21. John

    said on November 22nd, 2017:

    My wife and I were discussing pumpkin pie and the question rose about where and when and how they are prepared. Are they prepared in advance and frozen and baked in the store? Who makes the crust or is it mixed up in the store? Basically, do they make pies from scratch in each store or what?

    When I wrote up this post, Costco was making everything from scratch in their regional kitchens. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary, but then, I’m not really privy to the inner workings of their procurement and products. I do not believe they freeze them (there would be deterioration of the crusts for sure). They make tens of thousands of them, that I know! . . . carolyn t

  22. Meherunisa p

    said on November 23rd, 2017:

    Please send me all ingredients as I am allergic to lard.

    They don’t use lard. If you go to my post about the pie, you’ll now see a photo of the ingredient list. . . carolyn t

  23. daniel

    said on November 29th, 2017:

    no lard.

    Thank you, Daniel! I visited Costco yesterday and snapped a photo of the ingredient list, which I’ve now added to my post about Costco’s pumpkin pies. And you’re right, no lard. I didn’t think so! . . . carolyn t

  24. Mark

    said on December 12th, 2017:

    Over the Holiday season we usually buy between 4 to 6 of these pies for different parties and gatherings. However, the last two pies purchased were severely under cooked. Today I am going to return the remains of the 2nd pie. (All but two pieces) We are very very disappointed.

    You are the 2nd person to tell me that they thought Costco’s bakeries aren’t doing such a good job anymore. I haven’t purchased one this year, so can’t comment about it. The other person felt they’d used some other combo of ingredients (poorer quality pumpkin, for instance). They commented that the pie didn’t taste the same. Thanks for the heads up, Mark. . . carolyn t

  25. Wendy

    said on January 3rd, 2018:

    I believe, Steve, that the calories are figured on a slice that is 1/12 of the pie, not on a 1½” slice.

  26. Linda

    said on November 13th, 2018:

    can you freeze the pumpkin pies?

    Well, you probably CAN, but I don’t know that the crust will be all that great when defrosted. If you only froze it for a day or two, no problem. I’d cover the pie with plastic wrap, pressed against the filling itself, then wrap it all in foil. Good luck! . . . carolyn t

  27. Khadija

    said on November 24th, 2018:

    Do you know the source of the mono and diglycerides? Thanks!

    I have no idea – sorry about that. . . carolyn t

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