Thirty-three-year-old Georgia Gray would seem to be the picture of success. She’s head chef at a well-known restaurant in New York and engaged to Glenn, a handsome entertainment lawyer. Unfortunately, her boss at the restaurant is more interested in getting lucky with women than with restaurant reviews, and Glenn is more interested in lines of coke than his commitment to his fiancée – all leading to Georgia being alone and out of a job. In despair, she writes to Claudia Cavalli, a former boss from the summer Georgia worked between her first and second year in the Culinary Institute, and offers her services. To Georgia’s delight, Claudia writes back with an offer for Claudia to cook at her new trattoria opening up in San Casciano, Italy.
So begins Georgia’s new adventure -
not just an adventure in discovering Italy but mainly a journey of self-discovery, transformation and re-creation as
she copes with the realization that she is not to be the head chef but the sous-chef
- and that her mentor, Claudia, who had boasted about not needing a man or a child, is now married and pregnant.
Georgia perseveres after a shaky start with some of her coworkers and friends around Italy and finds that she loves the country. An offer from Gianni (an Italian lover of ladies who is also enamored with Georgia and her cooking) to work as top chef in his new restaurant in Sicily suddenly provides Georgia with the opportunity to stay in Italy but also makes her realize that her biggest dream remains unfulfilled. That dream began with her relationship with the one family member she really bonded with: her grandmother, whose love, cooking and business sense inspired Georgia to dare dream of opening her own restaurant.
With that realization rediscovered and goal renewed, she returns to New York as a completely different woman – unemployed, unengaged and starting all over again. Then she bumps into Bernard, a former work colleague. The two become partners and jump hoops to make Georgia’s dream come true.
Jenny Nelson writes a wonderfully crafted story about a woman’s transitions in life, managing her relationships with friends and family as well as the hurdles life throws at her. Each character is well thought-out, the dynamics between them so absorbing that you find yourself cringing with Georgia when she deals with her mother’s insensitivity and sympathizing as she decides whether or not to hold onto a cokehead of a boyfriend, or cheering her on when she throws caution to the wind to pursue her dreams. Georgia Gray is an inspiration to all women who have ever felt lost or discouraged during their lives.
Jenny Nelson’s first book is well worth the read.