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May 2016 Indie Next List
“Is it any wonder that memoir is the richest genre? The stories we live are far more fanciful, heartbreaking, and ridiculous than the ones we create with our imaginations. We have no control over them. They unfold, in spite of our best efforts, in clumsy, unsettled messes that become our lives. In Life Without a Recipe, Abu-Jaber stops along the way to consider the terrain. She can't control the events, but she controls the words with tight, perfect sentences. There's a beauty and elegance to the prose that elevates this story of the author's search for identity, resulting in a warm and wise delicacy to be savored.”
— Terry Nebeker (M), One More Page, Arlington, VA
On one side, there is Grace: prize-winning author Diana Abu-Jaber's tough, independent sugar-fiend of a German grandmother, wielding a suitcase full of holiday cookies. On the other, Bud: a flamboyant, spice-obsessed Arab father, full of passionate argument. The two could not agree on anything: not about food, work, or especially about what Diana should do with her life. Grace warned her away from children. Bud wanted her married above all even if he had to provide the ring. Caught between cultures and lavished with contradictory advice from both sides of her family, Diana spent years learning how to ignore others well-intentioned prescriptions.
Hilarious, gorgeously written, poignant, and wise, Life Without a Recipe is Diana's celebration of journeying without a map, of learning to ignore the script and improvise, of escaping family and making family on one's own terms. As Diana discovers, however, building confidence in one's own path sometimes takes a mistaken marriage or two or in her case, three: to a longhaired boy-poet, to a dashing deconstructionist literary scholar, and finally to her steadfast, outdoors-loving Scott. It also takes a good deal of angst (was it possible to have a serious writing career and be a mother?) and, even when she knew what she wanted (the craziest thing, in one's late forties: a baby ), the nerve to pursue it.
Finally, fearlessly independent like the Grace she's named after, Diana and Scott's daughter Gracie will heal all the old battles with Bud and, like her writer-mom, learn to cook up a life without a recipe.