As a woman whose husband left her with small children for another woman, I can relate to Mira's situation--but not to her anger. I was angry sure, but Mira's anger is almost irrational and the way she comes to grips with building a new life is an absorbing tale, including the way she comes to accept her father's lover. We all have to move on from abandonment and betrayal, but Mira really has a hard time with it.
Besides chronicling Mira's emotional ups and downs and eventual growth, Aftertaste gives you a clear picture, unvarnished, of the life of a chef. A friend said to me, "I know that's a world you'd love to inhabit, but I can't see it," and I had to reply truthfully that it's a world I would have liked to inhabit when I was thirty but not now. I don't have the energy or the stamina. I appreciate and understand however that cooking, for Mira, is much more than making the best pasta. It's about fulfillment and nourishing others and, yes, garnering praise for your efforts. But it's also about being exhuasted, having no time for yourself, let alone your child. It's a double-edged knife, out of the set of knives precious to each chef.
The subtitle calls this a novel in five parts: I'd call it a three-act play. There's the volatile time in New York, the interlude in Pittsburgh, and the conclusion with the chance at Grappa as the climactic moment. The resolution? You'll have to find that for yourselves. No spoilers here except to say that echoes of this novel/memoir will stay with me for a long time. An exceptional book.
Yes, there are recipes in the back, including Jake's cassoulet with which he tries to seduce Mira late in the book.
Oh, and the author isn't really the flawed narrator, Mira Renaldi. It's Meredith Miteli.