The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay by Beverly Jensen and The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
Photo: Ben Goldstein/Studio D
The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay
By Beverly Jensen
320 pages; Viking


The Cookbook Collector
By Allegra Goodman
416 pages; Random House


No matter the setting—impoverished rural Canada in the early 20th century or 1990s Bay Area—the bond between sisters is always an odd and special one. So suggest both Beverly Jensen's posthumous The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay and Allegra Goodman's The Cookbook Collector. The former tells the story of Avis and Idella, motherless girls tethered to a rough-hewn father. The latter introduces another pair of women whose mother died young; Emily and Jessamine compete over just about everything until a cataclysmic national event (and a religious reawakening) unites them. Strangely (or maybe not), the sisterly dramas in both books revolve around food—particularly stunning is the scene in Hardscrabble involving a blueberry pie and a very special dress. Both also feature supporting male characters who are touching, maddening, and real. But it is the women you'll love, because their differences—hard-driving dot.com exec Emily versus latter-day hippie Jessamine, for example—are eclipsed by the connectedness that comes from being both female and family.