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Hope in a Jar by Beth Harbison - Fiction
Twenty years ago, Allie Denty was the pretty one and her best friend Olivia Pelham was the smart one. Throughout high school, they were inseparable...until a vicious rumor about Olivia— a rumor too close to the truth—ended their friendship.Now, on the eve of their twentieth high school reunion, Allie, a temp worker, finds herself suddenly single, a little chubby, and feeling old. Olivia, a cool and successful magazine beauty editor in New York, realizes she's lonely, and is finally ready to face her demons. Sometimes hope lives in the future; sometimes it comes from the past; and sometimes, when every stupid thing goes wrong, it comes from a prettily packaged jar filled with scented cream and promises. Beth Harbison has done it again. A hilarious and touching novel about friendship, Love's Baby Soft perfume, Watermelon Lip Smackers, bad run-ins with Sun-In, and the healing power of "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific." Hope in a Jar: we all need it.
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HOPE IN A JAR (Chapter One)
When I was twelve, a fortune-teller at the Herbert Hoover Junior High School carnival said to me: "Gemma Craig, you listen to me. Do not get married. Ever. If you do, you'll end up cooking for a man who'd rather eat at McDonald's; doing laundry for a man who sweats like a rabid pig, then criticizes you for not turning his T-shirts right side out; and cleaning the bathroom floor after a man whose aim is so bad, he can't hit a hole the size of a watermelon--"
This man sounded disgusting.
"--make your own money and be independent. Having kids is fine, but get married and you will be miserable for the rest of your life. I promise you, the rest of your life."
This chilling prediction stayed with me long after I realized that the fortune-teller was, in fact, Mrs. Rooks, the PTA president and neighbor who always gave out full-sized 3 Musketeers bars on Halloween, and that her husband had left her that very morning for a cliché: a young, vapid, blond bombshell. Mrs. Rooks had four kids, and at the time, I thought of her as really old and I didn't quite get why she cared so much if she was married anymore or not.
She was thirty-seven.
I was thirty-seven last year.
But for the most part, I have followed that sage wisdom she imparted, whether it came from a place of deep inspiration or, maybe, from a place of bitter day drunkenness. It had an impact on me either way.
Dating was fine. I love men. I love sex. I love having someone to banter with, flirt with, play romantic tag with, and finally yield to. Many, many times I have thought, in the beginning of a relationship, that maybe this guy could be different and the relationship might last against the odds my young brain had laid out.
But inevitably things soured for me, usually in the form of boredom, and always within two months. Seriously. This was consistent enough for my friends to refer to it as two months too long.
The good thing about a breakup at two months is that there usually isn't a lot of acrimony or anguish involved. The bad thing is that it gets tiresome after a while. Honestly, I'm a normal woman, I'd love to be in love. I'd love to have a family to take care of and to surround me as I navigate the years.
But once I hit thirty-seven, I had to wonder if that was really in the cards for me.
And if that was the case, I was okay with that because I had a career I loved that allowed me some of the better parts of June Cleaver-dom, along with the ability to hang up the apron at the end of the day and be my own, single self.
I am a private chef.
Being hired to cook for people is really different from standing around a kitchen with friends, drinking wine and making snacks. It's different from making a whole Thanksgiving dinner for family. It's vastly different, even, from cooking for strangers at the soup kitchen, where the pride of creating something delicious is just as compelling but somehow...easier. Less judgmental.
Cooking for people in their homes can be like cooking for friends, but more often than that, it's like cooking for the meanest teacher in elementary school: someone you want to shrink away from, hide from. Someone you hope to god won't call on you or make you speak in front of everyone else. Someone you're pretty sure will yell and scream at you if you do one little thing wrong.
The many scenarios include--but are not limited to--taking the fall for a failed party ("the food wasn't good enough"), taking the blame for a neglected hostess ("you shouldn't speak with the guests even if they talk to you first"), shouldering the blame for the burden of unused ingredients ("I have to do...
Hope in a JarBy: Beth Harbison