LOVE & SAFFRON: A NOVEL OF FRIENDSHIP, FOOD, AND LOVE by Kim Fay might well be this year's word-of-mouth breakout novel - the sort of novel that never makes a big splash on the bestseller lists, but lurks just beneath the surface by building a slow, steady, and loyal following, recommended from patron to patron, and book club participant to book club participant. It has that kind of vibe. Plus, it's an epistolary novel, which, when done well, are special little slices of literary heaven for readers. They draw us into a magical, insulated world that's only inhabited by the communication between the two characters. We follow along as they meet, grow, and connect, empathize with what they reveal to each other, and sense what they're hiding underneath. There are several great examples - THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD by Helene Hanff, and MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM by Anne Youngston, among many others.
Getting back to this week's #NewTitleTuesday pick, LOVE & SAFFRON is not only an epistolary fiction novel but a historical one, too, taking place in the 1960s as a series of letters between two women - one is Jane, a young culinary newspaper reporter in California, and the other is Imogene, a long-time culinary writer in her 50s on an island off the Pacific Northwest. Imogene is married and has stuck to the ways they she learned as she grew up - until she receives a bit of saffron from Jane in a bit of fan mail - a spice she's never used before. Thus begins an extraordinary sharing of friendship and recipes between the two women, as the younger Jane gets exposed to the older Imogene's experience and wisdom and Imogen gets exposed to Jane's youth, enthusiasm, and access to California spices. The two communicate through the ups and downs of their lives, including the Cuban Missle Crisis and the Kennedy assassination. Fay's writing is both personal and emotional, and readers will be enchanted with the story of these two women. Place your holds now before everyone else finds out about this extraordinary book.