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Better Food for a Better World: A Novel Hardcover – March 1, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Wipf & Stock Pub (March 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 162032668X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620326688
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,389,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the relaxed, ex-hippie haven of El Campo, Natural High Ice Cream should be doing a brisk business. The founders of the shop, three couples who have been close friends since college, pooled their resources to bring locally sourced, cleverly named ice cream to their northern California community. While the shop seemed like a fail-safe idea at its inception, financial troubles and some restlessness among the partners have left Natural High on shaky ground. When Vivy, one of the partners, decides to dredge up some old talent to bring in new business, the shop and all three relationships hang in the balance. The latest offering from accomplished author McGraw, Better Food for a Better World depicts the delicate dance between business partners, longtime friends, and new lovers. Even the peripheral characters are uniquely memorable, and longtime readers will recognize McGraw’s ability to offer intimate portraits of some remarkable relationships. Deeply insightful and heartfelt, Better Food for a Better World will appeal to fans of Anita Shreve, Karen White, and anyone interested in the quirks, shared loyalties, and not-so-hidden desires of three modern marriages. --Stephanie Turza

Review

"Erin McGraw's latest book is a treasure. With her trademark élan and seamless storytelling, she manages to get to the very heart of the blessing and disaster that friendship, good intentions, and love can all be. Better Food for a Better World is a beautiful, funny, and haunting tale of who and where we are right now." --Bret Lott, author of Jewel and Dead Low Tide

"With soaring grace and sizzling humor, Erin McGraw fuses the piercing irony of Jane Austen with the subversive, satiric charm of Miguel de Cervantes. Here is a writer who loves her people enough to expose their outrageous flaws and celebrate their wild failings. Here is a visionary who offers delight as the first gift and hilarity as a path to transcendence." --Melanie Rae Thon, author of First, Body and The Voice of the River

"With each new book, Erin McGraw does something with her narratives I previously thought impossible. In Better Food for a Better World, she writes with great generosity about the struggle to be a good person; but, more importantly, she reveals how chaotic and hilarious the process can actually be. This is an expansive, beautiful novel that will rattle around in your heart and make it a better place." --Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang

The debut novel of a new literary fiction imprint relates the tale of three couples who start an ice cream shop in northern California to make the world a better place through their socially aware business. (The napkins bear mottoes like "Our goal is not gold.") One of the six partners, Vivy Jilet, is restless, and resurrects the old business she and her husband Sam formerly had, booking countercultural performers. Vivy's is not the only decision that shakes up the working relationships the couples have forged. McGraw (The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard) has a light hand with serious themes involving relationships and livelihood. She is deft with humor; her satire of green, aware living is funny without being snarky and is tempered by a generosity toward human foibles. Her characters are memorable, recognizable, quirky; the overweight contortionist Teeny Marteeny is a gem. McGraw is fresh and funny. --Publishers Weekly

"With each new book, Erin McGraw does something with her narratives I previously thought impossible. In Better Food for a Better World, she writes with great generosity about the struggle to be a good person; but, more importantly, she reveals how chaotic and hilarious the process can actually be. This is an expansive, beautiful novel that will rattle around in your heart and make it a better place." --Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang

In the relaxed, ex-hippie haven of El Campo, Natural High Ice Cream should be doing a brisk business. The founders of the shop, three couples who have been close friends since college, pooled their resources to bring locally sourced, cleverly named ice cream to their northern California community. While the shop seemed like a fail-safe idea at its inception, financial troubles and some restlessness among the partners have left Natural High on shaky ground. When Vivy, one of the partners, decides to dredge up some old talent to bring in new business, the shop and all three relationships hang in the balance. The latest offering from accomplished author McGraw, Better Food for a Better World depicts the delicate dance between business partners, longtime friends, and new lovers. Even the peripheral characters are uniquely memorable, and longtime readers will recognize McGraw s ability to offer intimate portraits of some remarkable relationships. Deeply insightful and heartfelt, Better Food for a Better World will appeal to fans of Anita Shreve, Karen White, and anyone interested in the quirks, shared loyalties, and not-so-hidden desires of three modern marriages. --Booklist

"With each new book, Erin McGraw does something with her narratives I previously thought impossible. In Better Food for a Better World, she writes with great generosity about the struggle to be a good person; but, more importantly, she reveals how chaotic and hilarious the process can actually be. This is an expansive, beautiful novel that will rattle around in your heart and make it a better place." --Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
5 star
90%
4 star
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3 star
0%
2 star
10%
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See all 10 customer reviews
I had a love-hate relationship with every character.
Jessica
I read it again -- hooked by McGraw's lively writing, intriguing characters, and stories with a twist.
J. Brent Bill
The smartassery makes me like them; the way they struggle in a marriage makes me love them.
B. Furuness

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jeanne Murray Walker on March 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In Erin McGraw's funny, deeply engrossing novel, the plot and characters are so real, some of them so much like people who might live in our neighborhood that I immediately took them to heart. And I have to add, there are other characters I wouldn't expect to find in any other book. (Take, for example, a contortionist who is as down-home as a Midwestern farm girl.) The plot of the book follows the lives of several couples who are involved in a new-age marriage therapy group called "Life Ties". The smallest lapse by any of the members is strictly policed by the group. And really, who can stand up to that kind of scrutiny? Not me, for sure. Maybe that's why I was totally involved with the lovely, fallible characters who are committed to such a wildly impossible ideal: to keep a perfect marriage. It was only after I finished the novel that I asked: but who isn't committed to some wildly impossible ideal? Aren't we all? Isn't that the point? And I began to see the novel as a satire, but a satire told with joy, a satire with a big heart. I've gone back several times to re-read passages, and I realize, in retrospect, how audacious and beguiling the prose is. In fact, McGraw's writing is so brilliant that to read the book provokes an almost physical pleasure.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Life is complicated, especially when our better angels run into our baser attributes. I fell flat in love with the friends in "Better Food for a Better World." I cheered the dreams of these three idealistic couples--then winced at the foibles that stymied their noble goals. A co-owned ice cream shop frequented by all sorts of characters reveals both the sweetness of community and the fragile humanity on which it is built. If you have ever dreamed of colonizing a corner of the world with your dearest friends, "Better Food" is the perfect preventive medicine, which goes down easily with humor and grace.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cygnus on April 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are of a certain age and lived through and survived the 1970s and 1980s, the era in which the story is set, you'll have one good reason to read then love this book. If you aren't of a certain age, then read and learn.

Another good reason for reading "Better World" is that its characters, restless, mover and shaker Vivy, her husband the apparently laid-back Sam, Nancy, who is politically correct but so often wrong, her 'perpetually angry' husband, Paul, fragile, musical Cecilia and her earnest husband David who is somewhat of a bore, create a drama, funny, sad, satirical, comic, sometimes dark that plays itself out in a small northern California town ice cream parlor and a New Age community group, Life Ties. If you were in your prime back then, think any experiences with encounter groups some of you may have endured, enjoyed, been comforted, tormented or transformed by. Just like being in church.

A third good reason to read: The crafting is superb. I enjoyed reading the story as it unfolds through the lens of different characters, and the entr'actes where McGraw allows herself space to tell it her way.

You might also enjoy "Beauty Will Save the World" by Greg Wolfe. You'll find connections between these two books.
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By J. Brent Bill on October 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I first "met" Erin McGraw via her short story collection Lies of the Saints. I was browsing through Eighth Day Books (one of the best independent bookstores in the universe) and came across this quirky title (I'm a sucker for quirky titles -- among other things). I snatched it up and read it straight through. I read it again -- hooked by McGraw's lively writing, intriguing characters, and stories with a twist.

I've read everything by her since.

So I was delighted to hear that she had a new novel out -- Better Food for a Better World. My delight has not dissipated after reading it. McGraw continues to be a first rate writer and she's well able to sustain a novel.

The premise doesn't sound all that exciting. Three couples from college pool their financial and emotional resources to start "Natural High Ice Cream" with the goal of providing "Better Food for a Better World." Hey, I don't even like ice cream that much (mostly because I can't eat the real stuff thanks to diabetes). And it hardly sounds "life or death"ish.

But then I didn't count on the "Life Ties" marital un-support group they belong to or chubby contortionists or flirtations over ice cream and wine or... Well, you'll just have to read it to see what other "or"s there are. It truly is a matter of life and death -- just not in the physical way, so much.

McGraw's writing draws you in, up, and over -- just like her lives of these non-saints. They are saint-wanna-be's sort of -- but of the vaguely spiritual, not religious type of saints. They're good people who just can't seem to be good.
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Format: Hardcover
BETTER FOOD FOR A BETTER WORLD is lovely and loving, full of exuberant life, sizzling with grace and humor. As always, McGraw's evocations of her people is brilliantly, poignantly, tenderly insightful. The dreams and desires of this fumbling troupe of players make each one alone and all together deliciously, piercingly familiar and, at the same time, delightfully surprising. The "Entr'acte" sections are especially hilarious, lucid and ironic, gorgeously economical. The subtle deployment of first person plural is a fiercely funny reminder of the way "we" begin to think, how dense and judgmental and intractable "we" can be, when the snares of the group tempt and catch us.
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More About the Author

Born and raised in southern California, Erin McGraw has spent most of her adult life living in and writing about the Midwest. Only in her most recent two novels has she gone back to her birth place, exploring the lives made possible by all that coastline and sunshine. She shares her life with her husband, the poet and essayist Andrew Hudgins, and their rotating cast of dogs. They divide their time between Columbus, Ohio, where she teaches in the MFA program at the Ohio State University, and Sewanee, Tennessee.

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