Another great Meg Cabot recommendation. Last time she led me to the funny and quirky novels in verse of Sonya Sones. Now I find myself completely immersed in Liza Palmer's second novel, laughing out loud, wiping tears from my eyes, as DH stares at me warily and scoots a bit closer to the far side of the bed. The title, cover, and marketing indicate your standard chick lit fare. But I found Seeing Me Naked to be a distinct cut above the rest.
Elisabeth Page is a pastry chef at the most exclusive restaurant in L.A. She chose the culinary arts as a way of escaping the overpowering influence of her father--a double Pulitzer prize winning Norman Mailor/Truman Capote/Ernest Hemingway composite. Elisabeth and her big brother Rascal (full name: Raskolnikov. Yeah.) have spent the majority of their privileged lives trying to get out from under dad's shadow. As a favor, Elisabeth donates a set of baking lessons at an auction for one of her mother's charities. Enter Daniel Sullivan: newly transplanted from Kansas assistant basketball coach at UCLA. Daniel bids on the lessons after Elisabeth rather snobbishly questions what a guy like him would do with baking lessons. And, just like that, we have a recipe for conflict. Elisabeth and Daniel have nothing in common and, after the first lesson, Daniel seems quite keen never to set foot in a kitchen again. But. He doesn't know who her father is. He's kind and funny and oh so far away from the cutthroat, upper crust, grin and bear it world Elisabeth has been living in. Plus (if she can manage to quash her knee jerk overeducated patrician reactions, aka Big If) he just might help take her mind off Will Houghton--her war correspondent boyfriend who she sees once every two years for one night at the most. A host of interesting and funny side characters fill Elisabeth's life and keep the story interesting.
This book is a treat from cover to cover. The characters are complex and carefully rendered. There is no black and white in the intricate web of family relationships they navigate. Difficult, messy, and painful as they are, Palmer shows how such relationships shape us, how influenced we are by our roots, and how, despite all this, we are still capable of becoming more than the sum of our parts and of allowing more people into our hearts than we thought they could hold. I look forward to checking out Palmer's first novel.