“How were you supposed to make good decisions if you didn’t even know what you wanted?”
The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell’Antonia is the December pick from Reese Witherspoon’s book club. This book is set in the midwest rather than the south, but Reese is a southern girl born in Louisiana and raised in Nashville so I figure that her picks still fit this blog! I will be reviewing her book club picks this year.
Be aware that The Chicken Sisters is not as lighthearted as the title and the cover might lead you to believe. It is a story of family conflict, mental illness, and overcoming ones difficult past.
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The Chicken Sisters – Book Review
- Author: KJ Dell’Antonia
- Published: December 1, 2020
- Type: Fiction.
- Genre: Women’s Fiction
- I read The Chicken Sisters on my Kindle and purchased it from Amazon
My Synopsis of The Chicken Sisters
The author of The Chicken SIsters, KJ Dell’Antonia, says on her website that, “Her memories of the two chicken restaurants in the Kansas towns where her parents grew up sparked the creation of Chicken Mimi’s and Chicken Frannie’s, the two restaurants at the center of The Chicken Sisters, and the story grew from there.”
The tale begins with two sisters from the past, Mimi and Frannie, who opened competing chicken restaurants in the same small Kansas town.
But the story is really about two sisters in the present.
Mae and Amanda Moore are the daughters of Barbara, the current owner of Chicken Mimi’s. They grew up working with their mother in the chicken restaurant.
Mae left the small town in Kansas to make her way in the big city of New York. She is married with young children. Amanda stayed behind in Kansas, but jumped ship to the rival chicken restaurant when she married Frank Pogociello who was the son of the owner of Chicken Frannie’s. After her marriage Amanda began working at Frannie’s and never stepped back in Mimi’s. Even though she is now widowed her loyalty lies with Frannie’s and her loving mother in law, Nancy.
The legendary competition between Chicken Mimi’s and Chicken Frannie’s quickly becomes a feud between Mae and Amanda as they take part in Food Wars, a reality TV restaurant competition that promises $100,000 to the winner.
Amanda starts the whole ball rolling by writing to Food Wars to suggest that they consider the restaurants for their show. She wants to help her mother in law with the expenses of running Chicken Frannie’s. Of course Food Wars loves the idea of feuding sisters and decides to feature the restaurants. Mae’s television and influencer career has recently imploded and although reluctant to come back to her small town she sees Food Wars as an opportunity to jump start her career by helping her mother present Chicken Mimi’s in the best light during the televised competition.
This all happens early in the book and as you might imagine the tension grows after the television crew comes to town. There is a producer who continuously fans the flames between the two sisters in order to make good television. There is a love interest. There is conflict, lots and lots of conflict. And there are dark family secrets that will be revealed.
The Chicken Sisters Book Review
From the blurbs I thought that The Chicken Sisters would be right in my lane. I enjoy books that are centered around cooking and I adore books with strong female characters and I am drawn to books about family dynamics.
So…you would think that I would love The Chicken Sisters, right?
I didn’t. I really wanted to love it and I expected to love it but I just didn’t.
It was a solid “like” for me.
That said, it is still a book that I would recommend. It would suggest that you give it a try. Obviously I didn’t dislike it and It kept me entertained. But there were things that bugged me and it isn’t a book that will stay with me.
So, what were my quibbles?
- First: I found myself annoyed with BOTH of the sisters from time to time, but there were moments when Amanda got on my LAST nerve. In the beginning of the book I thought I would not like Mae, but she ended up being my favorite of the sisters. Honestly, I struggled to like Amanda.
- Second: This book is billed as being light hearted. Sure, there were some funny and sweet moments, but overall it was heavier than anticipated. Anger, conflict, mental health issues, allowing oneself to be held prisoner by the past… Perhaps if I had understood that this wasn’t a light read before I started I wouldn’t have been so disappointed. I feel like there is a bit of false advertising going on with the cherry cover and the happy title.
- Third: Even though I like reading about family dynamics, I found the misunderstanding between the sisters to be frustrating. There were moments when I just wanted to say, “Would y’all just talk to each other already!”
- Fourth: I think it could have been shorter, or perhaps put together more tightly. It seemed that it meandered at times into unnecessary detail or dialogue. In addition, some of conversations felt a bit forced.
So what did I like about The Chicken Sisters?
Actually I liked a lot of things about it.
- First: The thing I liked most about the book was the way that the author handled the mental illness storyline. Hoarding can so often the butt of a joke, but in this book it is presented as the true sickness that it is. The author does a great job of allowing the reader to feel the pain that this caused to all who had to deal with it.
- Second: I think that some of the other characters were well written. Mae had, through necessity, been forced into the role of a second mother to Amanda. I could clearly see how the circumstances of her childhood caused her to be the way she was in the present day. I also enjoyed “meeting” Amanda’s mother-in-law, Nancy as well as Mae and Amanda’s mother, Barbara. Barbara was so flawed and Nancy was so perfect, but I still liked them both.
- Third: Some of the themes of the book were excellent. Especially the idea of how a person’s past impacts their present. This is a book that asks important questions such as: Can you move forward in a positive way when you are still hiding secrets from your past? Can you change? Although I loved the questions that The Chicken Sisters posed there were moments that I felt the answers were a tad forced, a bit clunky.
Although I didn’t love it, and although I had quibbles with this book, I do think that there are plenty of people who will enjoy it! Let me know what you think!
Blurb From Goodreads about The Chicken Sisters
Three generations. Two chicken shacks. One recipe for disaster.
In tiny Merinac, Kansas, Chicken Mimi’s and Chicken Frannie’s have spent a century vying to serve up the best fried chicken in the state–and the legendary feud between their respective owners, the Moores and the Pogociellos, has lasted just as long. No one feels the impact more than thirty-five-year-old widow Amanda Moore, who grew up working for her mom at Mimi’s before scandalously marrying Frank Pogociello and changing sides to work at Frannie’s. Tired of being caught in the middle, Amanda sends an SOS to Food Wars, the reality TV restaurant competition that promises $100,000 to the winner. But in doing so, she launches both families out of the frying pan and directly into the fire. . .
The last thing Brooklyn-based organizational guru Mae Moore, Amanda’s sister, wants is to go home to Kansas. But when her career implodes, Food Wars becomes her chance to step back into the limelight. Mae is certain she can make the fading Mimi’s look good–even if that pits her against Amanda and Frannie’s. With a greedy producer stoking the flames, their friendly rivalry quickly turns into a game of chicken. Yet when family secrets become public knowledge, the sisters must choose: Will they fight with each other, or for their heritage?Blurb for The Chicken Sisters
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