Outside Wonderland by Lorna Jane Cook and Whole Wheat Honey Bread

Thank you so much to Kate, Nicole and The Blue Faerie for becoming followers of my blog. Happy Reading!

Warning: The are spoilers.

This is a story of three siblings – Alice, Griffin and Dinah Stenen – and how their adults lives intersect. It is also a story of exceptional loss and inner sadness. Common theme that seems unremarkable? It might have been if they were not all haunted by their (mostly) unspoken thoughts regarding the deaths of their parents when they were very young.

The mother, whom you do not get to know in life fell off a stool in her kitchen, hit her head, and died when Alice was 7, Griffin was 4 and Dinah was a baby. The children, incidentally, are all named after characters from Alice in Wonderland.

The father, James, is a Classics professor. He takes care of the kids best he can and one day, when they are in Greece (where he is happily researching ancient vases and vessels) James drops dead from a heart attack. Dead. The kids are shuttled back to the States to take up life without either parent.

This sounds depressing, no? But all of that happens in the very first part of the book so you have an appreciation for the loss the children share. Not once in their young lives but twice – they are robbed of a parent.

In their own ways, each child thinks about the person they may have developed into had at least one of their parents lived to guide them through life. The loss haunts them constantly.

Alice is an actress in New York, a very popular one cast in many plays. She can not commit to a relationship until she meets her new neighbor Ian. But Ian has a son and while Alice is hands off at first, she falls in love with the four-year-old.

Griffin and his partner Theo are settled into the happiest relationship (at first….wait for it) and live in a world of seemingly domestic bliss. Problem with them – Theo wants to adopt a child and Griffin doesn’t want to be a father. A divide in the relationship is evident and deepens when Griffin meets a hot neighbor named Ray. Ray is the anti-Theo and Griffin is interested.

Dinah, the youngest, has an affair – very uncharacteristic of her I must say – and of course, she gets pregnant. The father is engaged to someone else and Dinah decides to keep her pregnancy from him.

A strange part of the book is the intrusion of the dead parents, looking in on their offspring from a sort of heaven. They float around and see others that have died, gaining entry into the limbo-ish place they inhabit. Huh.

Why would you read this book after reading my review – because the charachters come together. They are there for each other even though each one is lost with their own problems, some which are not shared with one another.

I received this book as an advance readers copy from Goodreads. It will be available in store March 2011. Personally, I would be willing to read another of this author’s books.

The loss of a parent is a horrible thing, particularly when you have had a good relationship. I miss both my parents very much and the very smell of a cologne or aroma of fresh bread is enough to mentally transport me to the kitchen of my childhood.

Whole Wheat Honey Bread

2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 TB active dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 or 5 cups all purpose flour

Disolve yeast in warm water. Add honey and stir well.

Mix in whole wheat flour, salt and vegetable oil.
Work AP flour in gradually.

Turn dough out onto floured surface, knead 10 minutes.
When dough is smooth and elastic, place in oiled bowl. Turn the dough so it’s oiled. Cover and let rise 45 minutes.

Punch dough down, shape into two loaves. Place in well greased 9×5 inch loaf pans. Let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes.
Be prepared to be awed by the aroma of comfort if such a thing may be smelled.

One of my favorites – fresh bread with a good quality marmalade.


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