Friday, January 27, 2017

A serendipitous friendship

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, memoirs, friendships, food, cooking

Isabel Vincent was nearing the end of a toxic marriage. Her friend Valerie had just lost her mother and was worried about her father Edward, a 90-year-old. She asked Isabel to "look in on him". Over the next few years, a friendship blossomed, and Ms Vincent's book Dinner With Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship, is an intimate peek into it.

Just a touch of a spoiler: Though at the end of the book Edward is still living, at age 94 he is getting frail and has just hosted what he calls "the last supper". The eighteen chapters of the book focus on eighteen meals, most of which Edward cooked for Isabel or for her and a few others. Edward is an extraordinary man. Like many self-taught polymaths, he had a few careers, not just the usual one or two. Along the way he learned to cook very, very well.

Isabel and Edward each had a huge need. He was suddenly adrift, having been widowed after 68 years with an extraordinary woman. She was "going under for the third time" as her marriage dissolved around her. She needed his perspective, along with the comfort of a warm and exceptionally delicious meal, about weekly. He needed a focus outside himself, a way to divert his grief into caring for another.

In the end, each felt the other had rescued them. Need I say this was not a romance? Except in the way that every deep friendship forges a bond nearly as strong as a happy romance. Most folks know the Bible verse, "It is better to give than to receive." Both Isabel and Edward felt they were receiving something precious. Neither could fathom the value of what they were giving. That is the best kind of gift, the best kind of friendship.

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