Yes, I’m very excited about the prospect of boots and cute jackets in my near future, but more than that, I’m excited because fall means it’s that magical time when there are warm desserts everywhere and the weather is just crisp enough that the universe is pretty much ordering you to cuddle up with a book, your furry best friend, and a big ole piece of apple pie. If I’m speaking your language and you’re looking for just the right book to satisfy your literary sweet tooth, look no further than Louise Miller’s debut novel, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living.
The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living introduces us to Olivia Rawlings, renowned pastry chef at Boston’s swanky Emerson Club…er…renowned pastry chef until she accidentally sets the place on fire with a baked Alaska mishap. (Whoops!) Humiliated and heart aching, Livvy flees to the quaint town of Guthrie, Vermont, home to her best friend and best New England memories. In need of money and a roof over her head, Livvy takes a job as baker at the Sugar Maple Inn and finds herself (and her trusty dog, Salty) living in the inn’s old sugar house, soon learning that her number one duty is to help inn owner Margaret reclaim the blue ribbon in the town’s apple pie contest. As she works her way through pie recipes, the lifetime-loner finds herself connecting with the eclectic, folk-music-loving citizens of Guthrie—in particular, Martin McCracken, the somewhat elusive native son who has returned to town to help care for his ailing father. Through newfound friendships and the possibility of romance, Livvy must decide if she wants to live life on the periphery or find the right recipe for happiness, family, and the true meaning of home. The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living is a novel as delicious as the title implies, and I savored it until the very last finger-licking drop.
Louise Miller perfectly whisks together all of ingredients needed for a tasty read: love, family, friendship, a goofy dog, baked goods and banjo music. (I didn’t know I was looking for banjo music in a novel, but as it turned out, I desperately was.) From the very first chapter, I was under the spell of the town of Guthrie, lavishing in everything wonderful, welcoming and homey about fall in New England. The characters and their relationships kept me reading way past my bedtime, especially Manic-Panic-haired Livvy and her straight-shouldered, no-nonsense boss, Margaret. I fell in love with the town and its inhabitants, right along with Livvy, and with every page, I wasn’t sure what to focus on first: my swelling heart or my gurgling stomach. (What can I say? I’m a girl who loves her cinnamon rolls and blueberry muffins.)
The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living is good enough to eat—really. Included at the end is one incredible apple pie recipe, which I obviously had to try my hand at, and MOTHER OF ALL THINGS HARVEST, this pie is one you will want to add to your Thanksgiving menu. I can’t even tell you what I liked best about it—the perfect, buttery crust, the texture of the fruit, or the mixture of apples used—but what I can tell you is that this pie will tickle your taste buds in all the right places.
Do yourself a favor this fall and pick up Louise Miller’s can’t-miss debut. You’ll fall in love with these characters, fall in love with this pie, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll find yourself packing up your banjo and your dog and heading to Vermont.