The main thing that drew me to this book in the first place was that I am the same age as the characters, so I figured I could identify with the premise—great friendships and hopeful dreams formed in college...and the reality of what's happened over the next 20(-ish) years. I knew the moment I started reading that I was right. Both of my favorite bands from that time period were referenced (Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews Band—still my fave, by the way), as well as some other pop culture and iconic references from the time.
The story is actually told from the viewpoints of all six characters, divided by chapters labeled with the name of the person telling that particular sequence. It begins and ends with Bea, the first and final chapters being the only two told from her point of view. She is their center, their conscience, their heart...the one who always made sure that their six-pointed star stayed intact. When Bea dies, grudges, secrets, and tensions divide the rest of this close-knit group for more than a decade.
Old sparks fly, hatches are wielded and then buried, and realizations are brought to the surface when the friends are forced to face not only each other, but also themselves in the spot that once represented hope and endless possibilities. I thought it was a great read and really identified with so many of the characters feelings and emotions, having turned 40 myself less than a year ago.
Though it wasn't necessarily a foodie novel, there was plenty of inspiration to be found on the pages. A few of the references being: green tea, mandarin orange, rice pilaf, cheesesteaks, hot wings, apples, jelly, hotdogs, lobster, melting butter on grilled corn, pizza, scrambled eggs, bacon, bloody mary, pumpkin muffin, beans, lemon tarts, peanut butter blondies, coffee cakes with brown sugar crumbles, Twinkies, Corn Nuts, yogurt pretzels, peanut butter ice cream, rainbow sherbet, pot roast, and blueberry muffins. And of course, there was all sorts of beer and booze (vodka, Scotch, tequila).
Obviously I had all sorts of ideas to choose from, but ultimately, I chose a food that was mentioned at least 5 times throughout the book—French Toast.
I think Catherine's French toast really represents the love, devotion, and friendship that these six characters had for each other in this story.
Baked Honey Cinnamon French Toast
Gooey custard in the center with crunchy bits on the edges, this overnight baked french toast is tangled with the tastes of cinnamon and honey (blueberries and nuts are optional, but delicious).
Prep Time: 10 minutes + overnight unatten
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Keywords: bake breakfast vegetarian soy-free bread honey cinnamon
Ingredients (serves 6)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 12 ounce loaf of Italian bread
- 6 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or dairy)
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts
- powdered sugar
- maple syrup
- fresh blueberries
Spread the soft butter over the bottom and sides of a 9" x 13" baking pan.
Cut the bread into 12 slices, slightly on the bias. Shingle them into the prepared pan in 2 rows, 6 slices in each.
Whisk the eggs. milk, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium bowl.
If using blueberries and/or nuts, scatter them in and around the pieces of bread now, lifting to let some of them fall in between. Pour the custard mixture evenly over all of the pieces of bread. Use your hands to gently press the bread down in the custard mixture, making sure that all of the slices are soaked well. Put a lid (or foil or plastic wrap) on the pan and refrigerate overnight.
Remove pan from the fridge and let sit on the counter while you preheat the oven to 375° F.
Remove lid and slide pan in to hot oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until some of the bread is golden around the edges and starting to look a bit dry on top.
Serve warm. Dust with powdered sugar and/or drizzle with syrup, if you wish. More fresh blueberries are also good on top.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.