The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister

Find in libraryOne of the serendipitous joys of reviewing Pacific Northwest writers for KLCC is how it has expanded my own reading. It’s always exciting to discover a new favorite. Frankly, in the case of Seattle writer Erica Bauermeister, I’m surprised I hadn’t encountered her before.

She came out with the delightful “Joy for Beginners” in 2011, and her new novel, “The Lost Art of Mixing,” is a sequel to 2009’s bestselling “The School of Essential Ingredients.” How could I have missed them?

From a thoughtful and optimistic viewpoint, Bauermeister focuses on character-driven stories written in lush, sensuous prose. Her books are cleverly constructed with each chapter focusing in depth on a different character, then weaving these individual stories into a cohesive and satisfying whole.

“The Lost Art of Mixing” centers on Lillian’s restaurant and the sights, sounds, smells, food, and lives connected to it. We meet the restaurant’s dishwasher: Finnegan, its budding chef: Chloe, its accountant: Al. We meet Chloe’s roommate, Isabelle, and Al’s wife, Louise. Bauermeister develops each character fully – their secrets, compromises, desires.

For example, Al is not just a dependable accountant. He’s trapped in a loveless marriage, barters with Lillian for secret gourmet meals, and impersonates authors in visiting bookstores. His nascent fascination with rituals becomes one of the book’s recurring transformative themes, leading, among other things, to the breakup of his own marriage.

It’s tricky, with a sequel, to create a work which can both stand on its own, as well as provide a satisfying development beyond the original. In the well-crafted “The Lost Art of Mixing,” Bauermeister accomplishes both. A great sample of the best in chick-lit – I’d venture that even guys will enjoy it! – Connie Bennett, Library Director

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