Monday, May 17, 2010



By Michael Lee West is available here on Amazon.
I give this book *****.

This is my 7th book review linked to Food for Thought hosted by the incredibly talented Jain of Once in a Blue Moon and Food with Style. Those of you here for Pink Saturday will find pink scattered about. This post is also linked to Foodie Friday which is hosted by the talented author of this book, Michael Lee West.

I started early~Took my dog~
And visited the Sea
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me
~ Emily Dickinson ~

The title, MERMAIDS IN THE BASEMENT, was inspired from the first lines of Emily Dickinson's poem. The novel is a charming tale of relationships: those between women; those of mothers and daughters; those of fathers and daughters.

Author, Michael Lee West

It's interesting to note that Michael Lee wrote the first version of this book two decades ago. She wasn't satisfied with it, packed it away in a shopping bag, and left it to languish in the attic. Luckily for her fans, Michael Lee retrieved those pages, reworked the plot, and the end result is this delightfully funny and heartwarming novel.

Thirty-three year old Renata, a Hollywood screenplay writer raised in New Orleans and coastal Alabama, has recently lost both her mother and stepfather in a fatal plane crash. Mourning her loss, Renata retreats to her deceased parents' beach cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Michael Lee said, "The title serves as a metaphor for Renata's depression and for the hidden past, bringing the truth out of the darkness, into the light."

Renata has spent six weeks by herself at the cottage working on her screenplay while Ferg, her filmmaker sweetheart, is on location in Ireland filming his current project. With writer's block sabotaging her work, an extra 20 pounds gained from indulging in salt water taffy, and a tabloid story about her sweetheart having an affair with a hot young actress, it's no wonder this character is feeling depressed.

A trip to Point Clear on the Gulf Coast of Alabama to spend time with her grandmother and former nanny, leads to some remarkable family discoveries. With a mug of jasmine tea, plate of gingersnaps, and a family photo album, family secrets begin to unravel.

To complicate matters, Renata's emotionally distant father is about to marry for the fourth time. An engagement party with champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, and a mysterious incident thickens the plot.

Though Texas isn't thought of as being part of the deep south, there were many references in this book that I could easily relate to and laugh about. Where I grew up, no one had cooks or full time help in the home, but the food references . . . yes, indeed. This book is a treasure chest of southern hospitality.

Even though it's not about mermaids, a theme of mermaids is woven through the stories told within this book. Full of references to southern food, MERMAIDS IN THE BASEMENT is a perfect novel for an edible book review.

Much of the stories take place in New Orleans and Louisiana, so I pulled out some appropriate cookbooks.

Crab, shrimp, oysters, and a number of fish dishes came to mind.

But a bowl of shrimp gumbo is what I chose.

Spicy gumbo with garlic French bread

Louisiana Shrimp Gumbo made with a dark roux, shrimp, and okra

And for dessert . . . southern pecan pie

A treat from the mermaids

Sweet, dark, and oh, so rich

Do you hear the song of the siren calling from the deep?

Be cautious or she'll entice you with her sweet voice and lure you to the sea.

If you find yourself on a beach this summer . . .

I recommend you take along a copy of this book and see for yourself how a string of pearls and chocolate covered strawberries put the bride-to-be in a coma.

Michael Lee West, the author of five novels, is a marvelous story teller. Her characters are full of personality, and the words on the pages ooze southern charm. You can visit Michael Lee's web site here. To learn about the simple pleasures of farm life, visit Michael Lee's blog, Designs by Gollum, where you'll find inspiration for interior design, cooking, and setting beautiful tables.

More edible book reviews for today's Food for Thought can be found by clicking here.

I've recently discovered a charming blog full of beautiful poetry and photos. Pop on over to Heart of a Wizardess to enjoy a lovely pinkolicious post and welcome this first time Pink Saturday participant. You'll find a complete list of other Pink Saturday participants @ Beverly's How Sweet the Sound.

R is for Red

R is for RED

One can have a Red Letter Day, receive Red Carpet Treatment, go out for a fun evening and Paint the Town Red, or catch the Red Eye Flight to squeeze in just a few more hours of vacation. Red is a color that can elicit many emotions: passion, love, anger, power, danger, joy, happiness. When used in decorating one's home, red will provide a variety of style or set various moods. Here at HFTS red can be found used as an accent color brought in through details and accessories.

As you can see red 

comes in many shades from 

red red to berry red to rusty red to . . .

What is your favorite color of red?

here and the magic red carpet will whisk you over to Mrs. Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday for more of the Letter R.

I'm also linking this post to the following weekly memes hosted by these gracious ladies.