Armchair gourmands and devotees of Ruth Reichl's memoir Tender at the Bone
will savor the food writer's debut novel, Delicious!
. Protagonist Billie Breslin, with the help of her aunt, has cultivated a perfect palate that helps her land a job with America's most influential food magazine, Delicious!
Billie, who can detect the presence of a fresh curry leaf at a thousand paces, thrives under the tutelage of the magazine's wildly sophisticated Svengali, Sammy, who introduces her to New York City's luscious gastronomical underbelly. Then Delicious!
is abruptly shuttered by corporate bean counters after more than a century in print (much like Gourmet,
where Reichl reigned as editor in chief for ten years). Moved into a glorified customer service role, Billie becomes the last employee standing—and the sole occupant of the magnificent mansion that once housed the magazine. There, she and the now unpaid Sammy, with little else to occupy them, stumble upon a portal to a magical yet tragic time: Deep in the library, they unearth a stash of letters from the 1940s written by a young Ohio girl named Lulu to the father of modern American cuisine, James Beard. Their unfolding friendship is chronicled in the correspondence, and the 12-year-old's words ignite Billie's imagination. In Lulu, Billie finds an unlikely muse and life coach, a teacher who schools her in something more important than the culinary arts. Reichl's compulsively readable novel is a treat for anyone who loves a warm, character-packed tale—a delectable mix of flavor, fantasy, and emotional comfort food.