Fruit Salad

Staff PicksShepherd Park/Juanita E. Thornton Library

Fruit Salad

The cover series: part 1

People say you can't judge a book by its cover. We are about to embark on a cover series on OverDrive for audiobooks to discover why. Today's entry: fruit.

Fruit on a cover is often fine art oriented, with renditions in oil paints and chiaroscuro accents. Who are these covers being marketed to? What do these books contents' have in common, if anything? This sampling of random fruit covered audio books will help us find out.

Postcards from the Past by Marcia Willett
When Billa and Ed receive a postcard from their long estranged stepbrother, they can't help but wonder what danger and misfortune is to come. This gentle winding tale takes place in the small village of Cornwall and follows the lives of Cornwall's inhabitants with a decent bit of mystery and family drama mixed in. With a peaceful denouement, this is a good book to listen to as you multitask. The postcards and the soft evocation of cottage and village living on the cover reflects the book very well in a both a literal and setting sense.

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
A curious (and sometimes ineffective) blend of genres, you might be tempted to give up on this read a quarter of the way through. Ok, so even half of the way through. But don't give in! If you wait it out, you will be treated to a poignant exploration of loss in the early 2000s which punctuates the overall rambling storylines of awkward relationships, religious exploration and the late 90s dot-com boom. It's hard to say whether Goodman's work would have really worked better as a short story, as the most well done part seems to rely on the character development she spent the better part of the book on. Worth it for a patient reader. The cover does very little to represent the book beyond the obvious connection between the lush fruit and the passion for the content of cookbooks. It would be difficult to know what kind of story was contained by a quick glance.

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs
This book was surprisingly delightful. With the somber looking cover I was expecting a serious historical fiction work with a romance and that was completely off base from what the book actually contained. Cooking channel chef Gus is coming to terms with her age on the brink of her 50th birthday. She has two grown daughters who don't seem to have their lives "on track" and her cooking network is pushing shows with younger chefs (and in the process, pushing her to the side). When her ratings drop, Gus needs to take on a new and original project to make sure she isn't booted from the network. This upbeat novel has new quirks and drama at every turn and well-developed characters. Definitely do not judge this book by its cover.

Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon
Crime novelist Donna Leon has ventured from her typical Inspector Brunetti murders with a standalone novel on music history and just deserts. When musicologist Caterina Pellegrini gets a job in her hometown of Venice researching and translating the long locked up last documents of a Baroque composer, she quickly realizes that there may be something askew with both her hiring arrangements and with the composer himself. As is routine for her writing, Ms. Leon seamlessly blends Italian language and culture into her work. The result is a deep look at the world of academic research, religious history, music over time, and of course, Venice. The cover somewhat fits the book in content and feel, but doesn't reveal much about the plot.

The Orchard: A Memoir by Theresa Weir
This gritty memoir provides a compelling look at the modern complexities of farm life in rural America. Theresa Weir, who typically writes suspense under the pseudonym Anne Frasier, looks back on her pre-published times when she married a man who worked on his family farm. While not intending to be a criticism of the current state of farming and rural living, Weir's memoir is a hard examination of inter-generational poverty, physical effects of rural living, sunk costs, and the significant chemical dangers intrinsic to the growing of crops and produce in middle America. The cover surprisingly ends up doing an excellent job of representing this, with a single perfect looking apple barely hanging on to the tree by a thread. At the same time, a cursory glance at the cover would likely not prompt an immediate understanding of the book, so unfortunately this book could not easily be judged by a browsing reader. 


So for a random sampling of OverDrive's fruit graced books, can you judge them by their cover?
It's a toss up. In this case you could probably get a good sense of the feel and content of the Willet and Leon novels, but judging the Goodman and Jacob works would be useless. The Weir memoir is a little more up in the air, but settles just over the line to the negative.
Yes: 2
No: 3

Who is the intended audience? What do the books have in common?
With florals and fruits being traditionally marketed as feminine, many of these books seem to fit the mold. They all have at least one female protagonist and they were all written by women authors. Despite this general similarity, the works seem to have very little in common. The plots were varied and covered multiple genres. For example, Weir's memoir was far afield from Goodman's tech oriented novel. This makes it all the more curious that the covers to these five books are vastly similar in style.