The Year the Swallows Came Early

The Year the Swallows Came Early
By Kathryn Fitzmaurice
The Bowen Press, HarperCollins, 2009

The Year the Swallows Came Early is about a girl who learns to accept the imperfect people in her life. Set in small town San Juan Capistrano, California, where swallows return each year to nest, Eleanor “Groovy” Robinson witnesses her father’s arrest and her world begins crumbling around her.  Shocked and sure it’s a mistake, she runs to her mother, who abruptly leaves work to ‘take care of her headache.’  Left alone, she encounters Frankie, whose mother left him two years ago, old Tom, a homeless man, and young Marisol Cruz, a passionate and promising artist.  Following a believable path, each provides Groovy insights worth contemplating.  In the wake of her father’s rubble, Groovy learns he betrayed her and ripped away any chance at her life-long dream.  Angry, she cuts off all communication with him and drops the nickname he had given her.  She insists everyone call her Eleanor.

On the top story, Eleanor is pushed and pulled through her father’s arrest and betrayal, dreams, chocolate-covered strawberries, sidewalk art masterpieces, boat rides in storms and earthquakes.  While through her equally compelling under-story we watch Eleanor learn that the unforgivable can be forgiven.  Fresh and thought-provoking metaphors sprinkle a flavorful depth to scenes and characters.

This novel is perfect for aspiring chefs.  Eleanor’s dream is to become a chef.  She keeps a journal of her favorite recipes and creates perfect menus for every possible situation.  At another’s suggestion she creates her own recipe for chocolate-covered strawberries and they sell out regularly in a local café.

Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s first novel is a beauty.  My only disappointment is that the author has no second book to read!

Originally published in San Francisco Book Review.

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