I love food books, so when the ARC of Bliss arrived I couldn’t wait to take it home. Bliss is a light-hearted, funny middle grade debut by Kathryn Littlewood.
This is the story of Rose Bliss, the practical middle child of the Bliss family who run a little bakery in a small town. The locals can’t get enough of the Bliss’ baked goods and there is a reason: the Bliss Family Cookery booke, which has been handed down for generations, has one-of-a-kind recipes that embue the slightest bit of magic into their sweet treats. Like a lot of 11 year old girls, Rose wishes she was a little prettier, a little braver and taken more seriously by her parents. She gets the perfect opportunity when her parents are called away to cure the flu in a neighbouring town and the Bliss children are left in charge of the bakery. But then glamorous Aunt Lily shows up, a relative the Bliss children have never heard of before. Although she bears the family birthmark and charms her siblings, Rose can’t shake the suspicious feeling that there is something odd about Aunt Lily.
This book was fun. It is ultimately a story about family, with some magical hijinx and a hint of coming-of-age story thrown in, which is why it felt classically American to me. It takes place in a small town that seems to exist just outside of the real world, a safe, wholesome place with kooky locals and life lessons to be learned, untouched and nostalgic all at the same time. It’s the kind of place where kids have quirky names-Rosemary, Sage, Parsley (called Leigh) and Thyme (called Ty) and niche businesses (such as Borzini’s Nuttery) manage to survive despite a small population.
Girls will relate to Rose with her middle grade anxieties. Her brothers were irritating and I found it hard to believe that the Bliss parents let them get away with so much, but then again I never had brothers and as a reader I am supposed to feel what Rose is feeling, which is irritation and injustice. There were moments in Kathryn Littlewood’s prose when I thought, wow, this is a writer to watch! She does a great job getting into the head of a 12 year old girl. At times I got a little bogged down in the silliness of some of the recipes gone awry and at over 350 pages the novel feels a little long, but overall I enjoyed my time with Rose and I think girls aged 8-11 will, too.
Bliss is available in hard cover in February from HarperCollins Canada.