Back To Budbury
You know what you are getting with the Comfort Food Cafe books - a great big, warm hug and a sense that no matter what happens it is all going to work out okay so you can relax and enjoy the tale. This book follows the same formula as the others in the series so whilst there is the wider village out there and a real sense of a close, rural community it is really all about just a couple of characters. Cherie Moon and Farmer Frank are here but in very small doses, as are Becca, Laura, Zoe, Scrumpy Jack et al and it really does feel like dropping in to catch up on old friends.
This story really concentrates on the wonderful Willow, who we have met before but has been very much on the periphery of the stories. I found it really touching the way that her struggles looking after her mum, Lynnie, as she is swept away by Alzheimer's. The depictions of the good days and bad days with this disease and the sheer unpredictability of it were well wrought. Even more so where the sense of isolation that Willow felt and she was unable to let down her guard and let anyone in as she was simply so scared of failing her mum. Despite the awfulness of the situation Willow is in as primary carer (sole for a majority of the book) there is a lot of whimsy and joy to be found and Willow's outlook is refreshingly cheery no matter what befalls her.
The romance storyline is rather predictable but still manages to be cute and I did find myself mentally shouting at Willow to just fall at his feet and be done with it - Geeks are so worth it and getting your hands on his collection of T-Shirts is a must. I liked the tie-in with the flashback that opens the book (even if it is blatantly obvious who the new owner of Briarwood is from the moment he makes an appearance).
This is a good, solid book that champions the support networks of friends, family and the wider community. There is something almost nostalgic about the setting, the language and the people that inhabit Budbury. This is a million miles from most of our life experience whilst still managing to be rooted in firm reality - quite a feat when you think about it. The writing is taut and sucks you right in to Debbie Johnson's world and you find yourself not wanting it to end - you also will find yourself suffering from the Reader's Curse of "just one more chapter" until everyone else is asleep and you missed your favourite TV show.