Lake Union Publishing. September 2019. Women’s Fiction. Sisterhood. Reviewed Sept 16, 2019
Julia’s career as a daytime television host self-destructs, but is it her fault entirely? With a “lacquered and sneering” co-anchor, a team of male executives breathing down her neck, and a younger, prettier anchor (in a tight-fitting dress, no less) waiting in the wings, who wouldn’t feel pressured to take an on-air risk?
Her sister Ginny, meanwhile, is in Arizona, lingering over farmstand produce, pinching her pennies, and wondering where in the world her daughter – the sole waitress for that evening’s supper club – is.
We won’t lie. We snatched up The Second Chance Supper Club (SCSC) for its foodie cover and some much-desired culinary prose. Because who doesn’t love a good food read?
Luckily – at least this time – our eyes didn’t entirely lead us astray. In the case of SCSC, you really can judge a book by its cover. This aptly named food-lover’s tale of two sisters is warm and readable, as the cover suggests. And the sumptuous descriptions are at times enticing enough to lick right off the page.
Yet, while the story centers on Julia and Ginny, estranged sisters who reconnect when – unbeknownst to either of them – both their careers are on the line, it doesn’t shy away from issues such as ageism, sexism, and single motherhood. Rather, the plot advances precisely because Meier chooses to anchor her story at the very heart of these relevant issues.
SCSC opens slowly and, to be honest, a little weakly. But the writing improves as we eventually learn of broadcast journalist Julia’s desperate struggle to stay relevant when a “younger model” turns up and threatens her job. Fearing she’ll be replaced because – as a woman in her late thirties – she’s just not “current” anymore, Julia makes a reckless on-air move.
Suspended for her unprofessionalism, she retreats to rural Arizona and the home of her sister Ginny, turning up on Ginny’s doorstep just in time to tie on an apron, pick up a tray, and rescue her server-less head chef big sis at that evening’s supper club.
The women are reunited in time to help one another find “second chances” with their careers and their personal lives. Of course, it doesn’t all unfold smoothly at first. They argue and blame, but eventually — well, you know how it goes from there…
But we like this book because Meier offers readers a bit more than a conventional story about two sisters, their struggles, and their happy endings. And she doesn’t rely on romance to pull it off. In the characters Julia and Ginny, Meier paints a picture familiar to many women. Phrases like younger model hint at the objectification and pressure Julia experiences as a television anchor in her late thirties.
Eldest sibling Ginny must sacrifice her career and relationship to shoulder the burden of managing her family’s estate when their parents are killed, yet that’s not the only reason she left New York. Like many talented artists (in this case, culinary), she was tired of answering to a thankless boss and wanted the freedom to start her own restaurant.
As a single mother to Olive, Ginny is also a co-parent, as it were, with Olive’s laissez-faire father, who’s provided virtually no financial support yet has long been cherished by rebellious twenty-one-year-old Olive as the ‘fun’ parent, the artist and creator, the one who actually ‘gets’ her. Another story thread many readers will recognize.
Because Meier takes on such themes, this title would make an excellent book club pick. Sure, readers will quibble over the writing (we did). But they can also savor the foodie fare and dig deep into the timely and important issues simmering behind the scenes in Ginny’s kitchen at the Second Chance Supper Club.
Disclosure: VP received an advance copy of this title in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are our own.