I really enjoyed Kendrick's other novel `The Baker's Apprentice' and am pleased to report that `Isabel's Daughter' is also a satisfying read, though it didn't quite grab my attention in the same way. This is the sort of novel you can keep dipping in and out of- in fact I found I had to whilst reading as the novel became quite flat in places.
Told in flashbacks in parts, the novel concentrates on Avery James, a `foundling' who was abandoned by her mother in the basement of an orphanage when she was just a baby. Being abandoned has a huge impact on the rest of her life, and growing up Avery chooses not to get close to anybody, for fear they'll also abandon her. She has no choice when she meets Cassie; the stubborn old woman is determined to take care of her. Similarly with Will, the only boy she'll ever love... she's heartbroken when he leaves her, though not surprised.
It's only when she's twenty five and working as a caterer that she stumbles across the portrait of a woman so obviously her mother and is shocked to find out that she'd died eight years previously, that she decides to unravel the mystery of her life, by speaking with those who knew her.
I really liked many aspects of this novel- in particular Avery recapping her childhood and growing up with Cassie. Seeing her gradually let in Will was also heart-warming, though I grew frustrated at times- Avery is a hard character to like. I also learned a bit about New Mexico in this story- the descriptions of the yummy food made me hungry!
What didn't I like so much? Well, I felt like the re-emergence of Will towards the end of the book was very rushed and forced into the last few chapters. As a girl who likes a good romance I would have liked to see more of that relationship developing into the arc of the story. I also felt like some of the chapters where those who knew Isabel and were retelling their encounters were a bit mundane and repetitive.
I think this story is sort of `comfort reading' in the sense that The Baker's Apprentice is, aided by the descriptions of the food flowing through it. Read this with some Tortillas and a bowl of salsa close to hand and really get a feel for the story.
I loved this book. Someone leant it to me so I had no expectations or preconceived ideas of what it would be like, but it ended up making it into my All Time Top 5. Who'd have thought? Avery James is an incredibly likeable character and I love that she shouldn't be. If you passed her on the street you may not even notice her but the journey she is and has been on, is far more interesting than you can imagine. The descriptive language and the theme of strong, independant and sometimes bonkers women, throughout the story, make it an absolute pleasure to read. There's no doubt that this is probably a book for women, but not your average woman that's for sure. Only free-spirited but stuck in their ways and frankly couldn't give a crap's need apply.