Angela Russo is searching. Living alone in a Manhattan apartment, but drawn repeatedly back to her grandmother’s kitchen in Nutley, New Jersey, where she has learned how to cook the Italian dishes from her grandmother’s hometown in Italy, she hopes to someday have her own home, her own kitchen.

As an event planner, she has a career of sorts; one she fell into. So perhaps she shouldn’t have been surprised when an error derails that career, and leaves her sorting through options.

So at this particular time, she grabs for what she imagines is a soul mate, a man she met online and who runs a fishing boat on an island in Maine, Mount Desert Island. Driving north to find the life she had dreamed about, she is stunned to discover, after only a couple of weeks, that the man she thought was her soul mate is a player, and has been connecting online with many other women.

But she loves Maine. So she moves into a little cabin nearby and starts to live off of her savings. A friend, Flynn, who runs the local coffee house becomes a guide…even a mentor, and soon Angela is giving cooking classes and dreaming of opening a restaurant.

The Way Life Should Be is an inspirational story of going for the gusto. Starting over. And reinventing oneself. Colorful characters inhabit Angela’s new life and make it possible for her to carve out some new dreams. And as the characters, her new friends in Maine, bond over the classes, sharing their hopes and dreams as they tell their stories, she is reminded of a truth she has known:

“These are the chronicles of legend, the tales we tell over and over, the stories that remind us we are not alone.”

Will she find her dream? Can she connect with someone whose stories will mesh with hers? Is Maine where it will happen?

I enjoyed the colorful and sometimes quirky characters, the settings that came alive for me, and at the end of the book is a section of recipes like those Angela taught to her cooking class; the ones she learned from Nonna. A delightful and feel-good story that earned 4 stars.


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