June 2024
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Review: Cherries in Winter, Suzan Colon

When the economic downturn hit in 2008, Suzan Colon prepared for disaster – and rightly so.  Writers are among the least essential employees, and she was shortly laid off from her lucrative job at a popular magazine.  While her husband managed to keep his job, Suzan decided to start saving money by cooking more food from scratch.  So she got her grandmother Matilda’s recipe book from her mother, and with it started to unearth a store of memories.  Among Matilda’s recipes are Suzan’s recollections on her own hard times and many recounted stories from her family’s history from the late nineteenth century to the present.

I had a big problem with about a third of this book.  Namely, I couldn’t relate to the author.  I might be a bit harsh, but I’m not sure someone who had a six-figure job, continues to do freelance work, and has a year’s worth of savings is really the person to listen to about hard times.  Sure, she can no longer justify $40 on having her eyebrows tweezed and can’t shop at the high-end organic grocery store in the center of Manhattan, but then I was thinking, who can justify these things?  And could I deal with her unhappiness that she had to switch to a cheaper face moisturiser when I can’t justify buying any?  Cut backs are necessary for her, but she’s not missing out on anything essential, and it’s clear her husband thinks her reaction is a little over-the-top. I shared his feelings, especially when he spends $70 on groceries for one home-cooked dinner and she worries when he doesn’t eat half a banana.  I know what it’s like to worry about money, but half a banana?  Suffice it to say, if you actually are poor, this is probably not a book for you.  I was left wondering if she had to fill in the pieces to justify writing a book.  After all, she needed the extra income.

It might work better for someone in Suzan’s income bracket.  I’m probably being unfair, in that she never really complains. She is a fairly even narrator and she maintains a lot of joy in her life.  I just think it all rubbed me the wrong way, because there are plenty of people in the US (and far more over the world) who are actually starving, who have no health insurance, no home, and can’t figure out where the money for the bills is going to come from.  At least she donates to charity.

On the other hand, however, I really liked her family’s stories, and I did find them inspirational.  For example, her great-grandmother once came home with a collection of vases, a little splurge to make her feel better in a hard time when her family mostly ate applesauce and bread, and those vases are still around.  (Seriously, how can you compare the author’s attempts at cooking meaty meals from scratch with applesauce and bread for a week?  See my point?)  I loved her grandmother’s story, too; she was a typist who rose through the ranks and became a talented writer, if she never published, after nearly starving as a girl when she was forced to work to feed her entire family.  And the way her grandparents moved to Florida on $100 and made it work was great.  I liked the message, which was to sometimes justify little unnecessary expenses to help get you through the hard times, although again, this is just not possible for some people.  This is a book for the upper middle class, no question.

Is it worth reading for that?  Probably not.  There are plenty of memoirs dealing with hard times and I don’t know that this one really did much for me.  The recipes weren’t really anything to write home about, and to be honest, I’m not sure they would save that much money if you’re already cooking from scratch.  I mean, one of them is for spaghetti with a jar of pasta sauce.  I save money by making my *own* pasta sauce, which is healthier, cheaper, and tastes better than a store-bought jar.  I’m sure that one was more for effect, but I just didn’t really need to read about rich people who are less rich now and whose cut back circumstances are more luxurious than my life on a good day.

So, in short, Cherries in Winter was not the book for me.  But plenty of people seem to like it, so it might be the book for you.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from the publisher for review.


9 comments to Review: Cherries in Winter, Suzan Colon

  • Ugh. I probably couldn’t stand to read this one, either. When the whole economic downturn thing happened, I couldn’t stand to read a lot of things in the New York Times because they were just rich people complaining about how they had to learn to cook at home instead of going out to fancy restaurants every night, or who had to stop sending their kids to really expensive tutors or boarding schools.

    I say, when you have to worry about making the house payment or putting food on the table, then you can complain publicly about a lack of money.
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Review: Fallen by Lauren Kate =-.

  • I may not be able to relate to this one either. We’re pretty much middle class and have been able to withstand the economic downturn fairly well, simply because we’ve never been able to justify the types of expenditures you mentioned.

  • There’s not much that I hate more than poor little rich girl stories. Yuck.

  • Oh, this sounds disappointing. I don’t think I can read it, either. I think the idea is good, but obviously in execution, she wasn’t focusing on the right things. I can’t believe that there is an entire recipe that is just spaghetti with store-bought sauce! Ugh.

    However, at the same time, I guess it’s what you make of it. Yes, she’s not poor, but she IS poorer than she used to be and did (in a really odd way, admittedly) cut down on her expenditures. And maybe in that way, just consciously doing that and considering the situation made her rethink her lifestyle? I don’t know- I didn’t read it and probably won’t but hopefully she gained some nugget of knowledge!
    .-= Aarti´s last blog ..With Reverent Hands: A Sundial in a Grave: 1610 =-.

  • “And could I deal with her unhappiness that she had to switch to a cheaper face moisturiser when I can’t justify buying any?”

    Same here :| I’m glad she never actually complains, but I have the feeling this book would annoy me all the same.

  • Wow, this book sounds like a self-indulgent mess. I think I’m going to stay far away from this one.

    I heard about a book on the news where a woman spent only $1/day at the grocery store for a whole year! Now that’s cost savings. Spoiler alert: she was freakishly skinny.
    .-= heidenkind´s last blog ..Botticelli by Frank Zoellner =-.

  • I requested a copy from Shelf Awareness when it first came out — but when I read “I might be a bit harsh, but I’m not sure someone who had a six-figure job, continues to do freelance work, and has a year’s worth of savings is really the person to listen to about hard times,” I realize that I am going to have a TON of trouble relating. I’ll probably flip through it and give it a try.
    .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Stats Posts: What Are They Good For? =-.

  • Hi Meghan and everyone,
    First of all, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read “Cherries in Winter.” I know there are so many books and so little time–that’s always been my situation!–so I just appreciate you giving the book your attention.
    Second, I’m so sorry to hear that you didn’t like it. There have been some misunderstandings about my intentions with the book; one example is the pasta recipe. That was actually supposed to be a joke, and I can see my aspirations to be a comedian should probably be laid to rest! ;)
    The other is the misconception that I’m a poor little rich girl complaining about not being able to afford expensive face cream anymore. Since you read the book, you know how I grew up, which was living a very hand-to-mouth existence. Our telephone was turned off several times because we just didn’t have the money to pay the bill. Food was simple out of necessity. And we got by just fine on very, very little.
    I have been extremely fortunate as an adult–but not because I had any trust fund or any kind of inheritance given to me. I used the lessons I learned as a kid to save as much money as I could since I started working as a mother’s helper at the age of 13. I’ve also worked very hard in my industry, and I was fortunate enough to make a nice salary at a job or two. Which balances out the many times I’ve made far, far less, so I guess it’s all relative in the end…
    At any rate, I’m glad you liked my family’s stories–they really were an inspirational bunch :) My intention with the book was to make people who were hit hard by this recession realize that our families have been through this before and gotten through it, as we all will. And I thank you again for giving me, and that message, a chance.
    With my best regards to you and all your visitors,
    Suzan Colon
    Author of “Cherries in Winter”

  • Oh boy! This book sounds like it would annoy the heck out of me! My husband has been out of work since December, and life here has been pretty rough. I can’t imagine how mad it would make me to have to read about her so called “economies”. I actually think it might be in bad taste to publish this book right now, during a time where people are losing their homes left and right. I will be skipping this book! Thanks for the very honest review!
    .-= zibilee´s last blog ..The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet: A Novel by Myrlin A. Hermes – 384 pgs =-.