I got a free copy of How to Eat a Small Country by Amy Finley via a Goodreads contest. Entering the contests on there is a great way to increase your books-to-read pile for free. The only problem is long odds---often there's over 300 entrants per book to be won.
Y'know, this is a difficult book to review. It's so fragmented. Part sob story memoir and part open hearted travelogue.
The author, Amy Finley, had a brief fling with fame when she sorta won the third season of The Next Food Network Star. Finley's troubled marriage led to her resigning from her new show The Gourmet Next Door. Interesting stuff, no?
Well none of that is in here but on the other hand the first 100 pages, more or less, are filled with annoying whining about her marriage and indirectly there's plenty of evidence here of why her insecurity led to those problems.
So why the 4-star review? When Finley isn't whining, she's a very talented writer. There's a scene in the last third of the book, where Finley finally confronts her divided loyalties between her mother and her husband Greg and she tries to harm Greg with a goat part saying:
"I...was going to hit you...in the face!"
That line followed the internal thought "...now I'm going to beat Greg down with a goat chop"
You're going to have to read the book to find out if she went through with the plan, but believe me, Greg didn't deserve it but the mother probably did.
In any case, if you like books about marital woes, you'll enjoy the first third of this book, the rest of the book is a nice travelogue about the Finley family's travels through France while sampling the food and wine. It's a testament to Finley's skill with words that I managed to read through that first part and was rewarded with the rest.
One odd thing, the book starts with a scene in France where Finley wants to, but isn't willing to kill a rabbit for dinner. The cover of the book has a small stylized rabbit in the bottom left corner with X-ed out eyes referring to that scene. I thought that was a cute touch.
There were times when I was sure I was going to give the book a 2-star review but Finley's writing skills won me over. I hope she keeps on writing. Insecurity can be a valuable inspiration for a writer but devastating when trying to establish a career in front of television cameras. This book is testament to that.