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Review: Blue Plate Special

August 2, 2013

Blue Plate Special

Kate Christensen‘s childhood was unconventional, to say the least.  As a young child she witnessed her father attacking her mother:

And so internally I absorbed my father, beating up his wife, a young, exhausted, vulnerable girl, punching her in the breasts, pulling her hair, seized by a rage that had nothing, really, to do with her at all, a rage that went all the way back to his childhood and was now caused by his own sense of failure, his disappointment in himself.

I absorbed my mother’s perspective, too, even as I refused to identify with it.  She was attacked and punished for being needy, for daring to ask for something, for revealing her weakness.

Christensen’s mother eventually left her father but not before some damage was done.  Her mother went on to become a psychologist and was involved with several other men through the years.  Her father wasn’t around much, though.  Since his anger was never directed at them, Christensen thought she and her sisters had come out unscathed.  She had trouble settling down, though, and she and her sisters have all struggled with their relationships with their mother.  The one constant is Christensen’s life has been food – many of her memories revolve around it.  She says,

Eating a good meal, like reading a satisfying novel, has returned me to myself during times when this disconnect was a profound internal chasm.

Even though novelist Kate Christensen writes of food and even shares some recipes, her memoir, Blue Plate Special, isn’t really a foodie memoir.  It’s the story of a woman who, after many years of struggle, managed to get past a damaging childhood.  At times disturbing and at other times uplifting, I found the overall tone of the book to be rather melancholy.  I did enjoy it, but didn’t love it the way I usually do with memoirs and I’m not sure why.  I think I was hoping for an inspiring ending.  Still, the book is worth reading, especially for fans of Christensen.

I listened to the audio version of this book – it’s narrated by Tavia Gilbert.  I’ve loved her work on other books but didn’t think she was the best choice for this one.  I never bought her as Christensen – it felt like she was reading a book to me rather than telling me her story.  You can listen to an excerpt of this almost 11 hour audio book.

Review copy provided by Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.
24 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2013 5:30 am

    Events of childhood (both the good and the bad) are an influence on adulthood. Very few of us are able to draw a curtain over memories and allocate them to a corner in the mind. This may be an interesting book to read – reiterates what I said, we do not forget.

  2. August 2, 2013 6:27 am

    I wonder if the audio affected your reaction in this case. I really liked this one, but I read it in print.

  3. sandynawrot permalink
    August 2, 2013 7:12 am

    It’s funny because I like Gilbert too, but have also run across audios that were mismatched with her narration style and voice. Anyway, I’m now on the fence with this one because there is no way I will read it in print (I’m totally stuck in the mud…back to school, you know).

  4. August 2, 2013 7:13 am

    I’m glad to hear this because I have it and was wondering if I would like it, but I thought it was a foodie-type memoir. Generally I don’t go for melancholy memoirs LOL

  5. August 2, 2013 7:14 am

    Hmmm, not sure about this one (well at least the audio).

  6. August 2, 2013 7:19 am

    Oh, darn! I bought the audio download of this one because I’d heard the book was good and I have also liked Tavia Gilbert’s narrations before. Haven’t started it yet, but I WAS looking forward to it! 😉

  7. August 2, 2013 8:32 am

    I’ve read lots,of reviews for this one, but for now not adding much,to my list. Appreciate your honesty.

  8. August 2, 2013 9:45 am

    This is one time when the title really doesn’t seem to match what’s inside. I’m not sure this is for me!

  9. August 2, 2013 10:38 am

    I still have great difficulty listening to books, just too much stuff around to distract me. thank you for your review.

  10. August 2, 2013 10:52 am

    Despite some flaws I think this is a book I’d really like. These are the types of memoirs that usually draw me in.

  11. August 2, 2013 11:14 am

    This type of memoir usually doesn’t appeal to me. I’m one of the few who didn’t like The Glass Castle!

  12. August 2, 2013 12:52 pm

    I think I’ll read this one instead of listening to the audio. Thanks for the info!

  13. August 2, 2013 1:19 pm

    Wow, no, I’m definitely with the people who have said this doesn’t sound like their type of book. I’m glad you enjoyed it despite the lack of an inspiring ending but knowing that it’s a little melancholy, I don’t think I’ll be picking it up.

  14. August 2, 2013 1:37 pm

    Doesn’t sound like one that I’d enjoy.

  15. August 2, 2013 4:05 pm

    I have been pondering whether or not to read this one, since I’m a big fan of Christensen. So after reading your review, I’m eager to learn more about her as a person, growing up in the kind of family you’ve described here. Thanks!

  16. Patty permalink
    August 2, 2013 10:34 pm

    I wish I could read memoirs!

  17. Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader permalink
    August 3, 2013 9:59 am

    I have this one sitting on my tbr pile. I’m still not sure if I’ll read it or not :/

  18. August 3, 2013 10:24 am

    I don’t do well with melancholy. They stick with me far too long.

  19. August 3, 2013 10:08 pm

    I’ve never been a big fan of the memoir but I do love the title of this one ~ food plays such an integral role in my family as we still have sunday dinners with my mom and brothers

  20. August 3, 2013 10:13 pm

    Thanks for the honest review. The way this book has been advertised, I thought it was a foodie memoir. Now that I know it’s not, I’m still going to read it but with new expectations.

  21. August 4, 2013 3:55 pm

    I would have wanted to read this one if it were, in fact, a foodie memoir, but now I’m not sure. The writing seems really good, though.

  22. talesofwhimsy permalink
    August 4, 2013 10:17 pm

    Whoa. That cover totally doesn’t match the book it seems like. Great honest review.

  23. Staci@LifeintheThumb permalink
    August 5, 2013 8:15 pm

    Maybe it was just too sad??? Not sure if I would read this one or not. I did think it was more of a foodie memoir.

  24. bookingmama permalink
    August 8, 2013 2:11 pm

    Interesting assessment of the narrator. I think I have this one in print and I might pick it up after I get a few must-reads out of the way!

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