Although it didn’t take me anywhere near as long as it did to read my last book, Where am I Now? by Mara Wilson, I still had the exact same issue with Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson; in which the story is written in the first person. Practically making it an autobiography of a fictional character.
The first few pages weren’t, they were written in the third person, and these pages were the most hilarious to me. I thought I was back into a good book where I could lose myself, but then it changed into reading the rest of the story through the eyes of Becca; a hard-ass’d, no nonsense woman whose inner thoughts consisted of words such as ‘crikey’ and ‘yukky’…
I’m sad to say that this story and its main character in particular didn’t feel real to me. I was reading a work of fiction and I seriously knew it, the whole way through.
There is a preceding story to Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe, Summer at the Comfort Food Cafe, which I haven’t read but the Christmas story made sense and any important details from the previous book were explained well enough that I could get the gist of what was going on in the background.
I’m guessing the first book was from Laura’s point of view as this book is from her sister Becca’s point of view. Becca is a little messed up (think drink, drugs and men) and generally quite closed off from the world but the most important aspect is that she really doesn’t like Christmas. Never has, since she was a little girl, but was solidified one particular Christmas when something terrible happened to her. No spoilers here.
Time passes on but things change for her when her sister, Laura’s, husband dies and she decides she needs to be strong for Laura and her two children.
She gives up her vices and goes to visit Laura in her new home down at the Comfort Food Cafe for, well you guessed it, Christmas, and is swept up in the local life.
Becca has some things she needs to work through and though we do find out what those are, the book didn’t really come to a resolution. I was left with the impression that things would work out sometime in the future but, to me, there were big plot lines and events left out of the story, that would have made it so much more heartwarming.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this, the first few pages were well written and told through the narrator, believable, heartfelt and conjured up lost memories of my own. I was laughing away, trying my best to stifle my giggles while I was reading it on the train; but as soon as it changed to the first person perspective, I didn’t laugh once. On more than once occasion I was practically being told through Becca’s thoughts that I should be laughing, which more often than not puts me right off. It’s like when a joke has to be explained and it takes all the hilarity out of the thing. It has to work naturally, and this did not feel natural.
I couldn’t connect with Becca or any of the characters, there were some bits that worked alright in the story, but others felt rushed and not thought through enough; and there were grammatical errors which leads me to believe it was a rushed job to get it out onto the shelves. But if it wasn’t, it certainly felt that way.
I finished the story feeling unsatisfied with the ending but glad it was over.
If you’re looking for a gooey Christmas read, I wouldn’t bother with this one, or at least have a gooey Christmas read waiting in the wings for once you’ve finished it.
Have you read Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe? Was your view different to mine? What did you think of it?
Up next to read: The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. It’s only a little one so hopefully I’ll be able to finish it before Christmas and can fit in a reading of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in time for the big day.
Until next time. x