On her many stops on her virtual tour, author Claire Cook, is visiting here today. Please help me welcome her and take a minute to read about her new book Seven Year Switch that is getting rave reviews.
About Claire Cook
Claire Cook is the bestselling author of seven novels, including Must Love Dogs, which was adapted into a Warner Bros. movie starring Diane Lane and John Cusack, The Wildwater Walking Club, Life’s a Beach, and her latest, Seven Year Switch. Her reinvention workshops have been featured on The Today Show, and she has been a judge for the Thurber Humor Prize and the Family Circle fiction contest. Her books have been featured on Good Morning America and in People, Good Housekeeping, Redbook and more. She has two kids, seven brothers and sisters, and one husband. She lives in Scituate, MA. Visit her website and find reinvention and writing tips at http://www.ClaireCook.com. Find her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ClaireCookbooks/. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ClaireCookbooks/.
About Seven Year Switch
Jill Murray is content living a man-free existence. She’s got Anastasia, her ten-year-old daughter, and a sweet little bungalow to call home. Life as a cultural coach didn’t turn out quite the way she planned, but between answering phones for Great Girlfriend Getaways and teaching Lunch Around the World classes, the dust in this Jill-of-all-trades life is starting to settle. Then her ex-husband comes back. They say that every seven years you become a completely new person, and Jill has long ago stopped wishing her deadbeat husband would return. Now she has to face the fact there’s simply no way she can be a good mom without letting Seth back into their daughter’s life. But why can’t she seem to hold herself together around him? And then there’s Billy, the free-spirited, bike-riding entrepreneur who hires Jill as a consultant. When their business relationship seems destined for something more Jill’s no-boys-allowed life is suddenly anything but. It takes a Costa Rican getaway to help Jill make her choice — between the woman she is and the woman she wants to be. It’s a wild ride, sure to thrill Claire Cook’s many fans, complete with laughter, revelations, and one heckuva big tarantula. Read the Excerpt!
I sailed into the community center just in time to take my Lunch Around the World class to China. I hated to be late, but my daughter Anastasia had forgotten part of her school project.
“Oh, honey,” I’d said when she called from the school office. “Can’t it wait until tomorrow? I’m just leaving for work.” I tried not to wallow in it, but sometimes the logistics of being a single mom were pretty exhausting.
“Mom,” she whispered, “it’s a diorama of a cow’s habitat, and I forgot the cow.”
I remembered seeing the small plastic cow grazing next to Anastasia’s cereal bowl at breakfast, but how it had meandered into the dishwasher was anyone’s guess. I gave it a quick rinse under the faucet and let it air dry on the ride to school. From there I high-tailed it to the community center.
Though it wasn’t the most challenging part of my work week, this Monday noon to two o’clock class got me home before my daughter, which in the dictionary of my life, made it the best kind of gig. Sometimes I even had time for a cup of tea before her school bus came rolling down the street. Who knew a cup of tea could be the most decadent part of your day.
I plopped my supplies on the kitchen counter and jumped right in “In Chinese cooking, it’s important to balance colors as well as contrasts in tastes and textures.”
“Take a deep breath, honey,” one of my favorite students said. Her name was Ethel and she had bright orange lips and I Love Lucy hair. “We’re not going anywhere.”
A man with white hair and matching eyebrows started singing “On a Slow Boat to China.” A couple of the women giggled. I took that deep breath.
“Yum cha is one of the best ways to experience this,” I continued. “Literally yum cha means “drinking tea,” but it actually encompasses both the tea drinking and the eating of dim sum, a wide range of light dishes served in small portions.”
“Yum-yum,” a man named Tom said. His thick glasses were smudged with fingerprints, and he was wearing a T-shirt that said Tune in Tomorrow for a Different Shirt
“Let’s hope,” I said. “In any case, dim sum has many translations: ‘small eats,’ of course, but also ‘heart’s delight,’ ‘to touch your heart,’ and even ‘small piece of heart.’ I’ve often wondered if Janis Joplin decided to sing the song she made famous after a dim sum experience.”
Last night when I was planning my lesson, this had seemed like a brilliant and totally original cross-cultural connection, but everybody just nodded politely.
We made dumplings and pot stickers and mini spring rolls, and then we moved on to fortune cookies. Custard tarts or even mango pudding would have been more culturally accurate, but fortune cookies were always a crowd pleaser. I explained that the crispy, sage-laced cookies had actually been invented in San Francisco, and tried to justify my choice by adding that the original inspiration for fortune cookies possibly dated back to the thirteenth century, when Chinese soldiers slipped rice paper messages into mooncakes to help coordinate their defense against Mongolian invaders.
Last night Anastasia had helped me cut small strips of white paper to write the fortunes on. And because the cookies had to be wrapped around the paper as soon as they came out of the oven while they were still pliable, I’d bought packages of white cotton gloves at CVS and handed out one to each person. The single gloves kept the students’ hands from burning and were less awkward than potholders would have been.
They also made the class look like aging Michael Jackson impersonators. A couple of the women started to sing “Beat It” while they stirred the batter, and then everybody else joined in. There wasn’t a decent singer in the group, but some of them could still remember how to moonwalk.
After we finished packing up some to take home, we’d each placed one of our cookies in a big bamboo salad bowl. There’d been more giggling as we passed the bowl around the long, wobbly wooden table and took turns choosing a cookie and reading the fortune, written by an anonymous classmate, out loud.
“The time is right to make new friends.”
“A great adventure is in your near future.”
“A tall dark-haired man will come into your life.”
“You will step on the soil of many countries, so don’t forget to pack clean socks.”
“The one you love is closer than you think,” Ethel read. Her black velour sweat suit was dusted with flour.
“Oo-ooh,” the two friends taking the class with her said. One of them elbowed her.
The fortune cookies were a hit. So what if my students seemed more interested in the food than its cultural origins. I wondered if they’d still have signed up if I’d shortened the name of the class from Lunch Around the World to just plain Lunch. My class had been growing all session, and not a single person had asked for a refund. In this economy, everybody was cutting everything, and even community center classes weren’t immune. The best way to stay off the chopping block was to keep your classes full and your students happy.
I reached over and picked up the final fortune cookie, then looked at my watch. “Oops,” I said. “Looks like we’re out of time.” I stood and smiled at the group. “Okay, everybody, that’s it for today.” I nodded at the takeout cartons I’d talked the guy at the Imperial Dragon into donating to the cause. “Don’t forget your cookies, and remember, next week we’ll be lunching in Mexico.” I took care to pronounce it Mehico.
“Tacos?” T-shirt Tom asked.
“You’ll have to wait and see-eee,” I said, mostly because I hadn’t begun to think about next week. Surviving this one was enough of a challenge.
“Not even a hint?” a woman named Donna said.
I shook my head and smiled some more.
They took their time saying thanks and see you next week, as they grabbed their takeout boxes by the metal handles and headed out the door. A few even offered to help me pack up, but I said I was all set. It was faster to do it myself.
As I gave the counters a final scrub, I reviewed today’s class in my head. Overall, I thought it had gone well, but I still didn’t understand why the Janis Joplin reference had fallen flat.
I put the sponge down, picked up a wooden spoon, and got ready to belt out “Piece of My Heart.”
When I opened my mouth, a chill danced the full length of my spine. I looked up. A man was standing just outside the doorway. He had dark, wavy hair cascading almost to his shoulders and pale, freckled skin. He was tall and a little too thin. His long fingers gripped the doorframe, as if a strong wind might blow him back down the hallway.
He was wearing faded jeans and the deep green embroidered Guatemalan shirt I’d given my husband just before he abandoned us seven years ago. No. Way.