Book Review: The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert
“Happiness is always worth remembering, even when it was temporary.”
Another delightful food fiction book or in this case, a beverage fiction book. I adored Amy Reichert’s novel, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake; it was similar to You’ve Got Mail except with a food critic and a chef. What’s not to love about that? In Reichert’s The Simplicity of Cider, the story focuses on a cider maker in Door County, Wisconsin and her family farm. Sanna Lund and her father Einars run Idun’s Orchard, continuing the multi-generational Lund tradition of apple farming. When single dad Isaac Banks and his son Sebastian “Bass” stumble upon the Lund farm, Einars offers them jobs and a place to live for the summer. Isaac and Bass are on a long summer road trip, avoiding their home of California, because Isaac doesn’t want to tell Bass his mom died of a drug overdose; he just wants him to have one last summer before he has to grow up. Not the most sound parenting move, but I understand the motivation behind Isaac’s idea.
Sanna and her brother Anders grew up on the orchard with their father after their mother left when Sanna was just 6. Sanna calls her mother “the Donor”, which is awful, but at the same time, I also kind of love it. Growing up to be over six feet tall, Sanna struggled during her teenage years and has never forgiven her mother for leaving. Sanna has basically shut herself off from anyone other than her family, and she is only happy when she is making cider. She even has the rare Lund gift of "seeing colors" to make her apple cider. Sanna can see exactly what color a cider should taste like, so she names all her ciders after colors. However happy she is making cider, she cannot figure out how to sell them to really make any money. And with her dad getting older and just the two of them working, the farm is in trouble financially until Isaac and Bass show up. Can Isaac and Bass help save the Lund farm?
Isaac is immediately attracted to Sanna but knows that nothing can happen because this summer is all about Bass. Despite Sanna’s cold attitude to Isaac and Bass at first, she eventually warms to both, finding Isaac extremely handsome, capable, and sweet (a lethal combination) and Bass cooler than most kids. When Einars falls off a ladder and breaks several bones, Isaac and Bass suddenly become essential to the running of the farm. As Isaac and Sanna become closer, other circumstances arise to keep things difficult for the two of them to get together. Throughout all this, Anders receives an offer from Eva Drake, whose family develops hotels with mini water parks. Eva desperately wants to prove herself to her father and brother that she can land this deal. However, neither Sanna or Einars are willing to sell the land, but all Anders can see is the money.
Sanna was an interesting protagonist because while she’s not particularly warm and friendly, she is devoted to her father and the farm. And once Bass wiggles his way into her heart, she’s done for. Growing up without a mother, then (in her mind) being abandoned by her brother, has taken a toll on her. She refuses to let her guard down and be seen as vulnerable, but I loved how throughout the book, she was able to let go of some of her anxieties and find happiness in relationships, not just in her beloved apple trees. I do love how her happy place and eventually her and Issac’s happy place is the beloved heirloom apple trees that they refer to as the Looms. And when Isaac added string lights in mason jars to hang up in her favorite tree, I sighed and swooned.
The Simplicity of Cider is not just a romantic book, but it is also a book about family and finding happiness in the simple things. Normally I am not a huge fan of magical realism, but I really enjoyed the very subtle magic Reichert alluded to with Sanna’s ability to “see” colors. It gave the story a touch of whimsy, and it also really made me crave some cider. I loved Bass. He is such a ten year old boy, but at the same time, he is a sweet and sensitive soul. His relationships with Einars and Sanna are adorable, not to mention the touching father-son relationship he and Isaac have. I also appreciated how every dinner included a dessert, whether it was an apple bread pudding, a cherry cobbler, or the classic apple pie. There is something so comforting about reading about food. It always makes me hungry, and I immediately want to become a chef. Or in this case visit an apple orchard as soon as possible.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Simplicity of Cider from the lovely characters to the setting in Wisconsin. If you are looking for a quirky read about family, small towns, and a good cider, then this is the book for you! Each of Reichert’s books involve some type of food or beverage. I cannot wait to read her upcoming book, The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go. I won an advance copy from Goodreads and cannot wait to immerse myself in the world of a gourmet grilled cheese food truck. Talk about yum. I adored The Simplicity of Cider. I give it 4 stars!
Let me know what food fiction books or food memoirs you enjoy!