Book Review: Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good


August 11, 2014 by Beth - I SNIFF BOOKS blog

burnt toastBurnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn and published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House.  Hardcover with 288 pages. ISBN 978-0670015443.  Publication date:  August 14, 2014.

synopsis: A family history with recipes, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good offers a flavorful tale spanning three generations as Flinn returns to the mix of food and memoir readers loved in her New York Times best-seller The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. From a Route 66 trek to San Francisco to their Michigan farm to the shores of Florida, humor and adventure defines her family even in the worst of times. (Think Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle meets the works of Ruth Reichl topped with a dollop of Julia Child.) You’ll savor Uncle Clarence’s divine corn flake-crusted fried chicken, Grandpa Charles’ spicy San Antonio chili and her grandmother’s birthday-only cinnamon rolls. Through these flavors, Flinn came to understand how meals can be memories and cooking can be communication. Brimming with warmth and wit, fans of Luisa Weiss’ My Berlin Kitchen, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones and Butter and especially Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn will delight in this revealing look at a family that just might resemble your own.

What attracted me to Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good is the blurb on the front cover:  “A memoir of food & love from an American midwest family.”  However, the synopsis comes across very muddled.  And, at the time of this post, the synopsis varies from place to place.  For example, B&N has a different blurb than Amazon. The blurb on my book’s dust jacket is only very slightly different from the full blurb above — that one happens to be from Amazon.

I’ve been torn about even commenting on the synopsis, because after all, isn’t it what’s in the pages that matters? But the synopsis is important too — most readers definitely take the time to read it when deciding if they want to read a book or not.

Think Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle meets the works of Ruth Reichl topped with a dollop of Julia Child” sounds a bit cheesy to me and seems out of place — maybe that’s why the statement is in parenthesis? This statement most definitely sets the reading expectation bar pretty high — Wall’s book has thousands of 5-star ratings online, I’ve read three of Reichl’s books, and Child is a foodie rockstar.  Also, to assume that I’ll enjoy Flinn’s book because I’m a fan of one or the three other books mentioned, again that just sets the reading expectation bar pretty high — especially since A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my most favorite book.

And maybe I’m dwelling too much on the synopsis, but I can’t help thinking I would have liked Flinn’s book more if all those comparisons weren’t made.  She doesn’t need to be compared to any other authors/books because she has her own strong voice and great stories to tell about her family history — many of these stories take place before she was even born.  There’s a good mix of happy, sad, and bittersweet stories — and of course, food is always involved.  This is a solid good appealing read for those who like family history stories told through the lens of food.

Flinn_Grandmother quote


Available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions are my own.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

  1. ryandejonghe says:

    I was wondering about this book; it’s funny you mention the marketing of the book. Looking back on my lower-starred reviews, many of them are caused by false expectations from comparrisons or famous author book blurbs. Sometiems they nail it, but many times it causes a bad taste left in the mouth.

    The book still sounds interesting though. Thanks for the review!

  2. isniffbooks says:

    Ryan, thanks for your comment. I was hesitant to post my thoughts about the synopsis so I appreciate you understanding where I was coming from. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good is good so just forget about the synopsis if you give the book a try 😉

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