This reading group guide for The Coincidence of Coconut Cake includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Introduction
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The last thing Lou, a talented and tireless Milwaukee chef, expects to lose when she dumps her cheating fiancé is her beloved restaurant, Luella’s. But when an off night in the kitchen—fueled by heartbreak and frustration—coincides with an anonymous visit from an exacting critic from the local newspaper, one scathing review is all it takes to see her promising business suddenly facing closure.
As the city’s most infamous restaurant critic, Al prefers to keep his professional identity a secret. A recent transplant from England, he runs into Lou as she’s drowning her sorrows in a pub and playfully challenges her to show him the best of Milwaukee. As Al and Lou explore the sights and sounds of her hometown, they begin to fall for each other—until Al realizes that it was his review that put the future of Luella’s in jeopardy. When the truth comes out, the two star-crossed foodies must find a way to overlook the past in order to forge a new future together. Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. It’s clear from the opening chapter of the book that Devlin and Lou have divergent plans for the future. What do you think drew them together in the first place? Did you find Devlin, with his good looks and promise of financial stability, alluring or stifling?
2. Lou considers the following quote: “Delight is indeed born in the heart. It sometimes also depends on its surroundings.” Do you think this holds true throughout the book? How do Al and Lou’s surroundings impact their happiness? Do you think that your surroundings dictate your own happiness? Or is your perception and attitude more important?
3. Both Al and Lou have fond memories of their grandmothers’ cooking, from Luella’s famous coconut cake to the rusty cast iron skillet that Al still holds dear. What are some of your favorite culinary memories or traditions? How have they evolved—or not—over the years?
4. As Lou plays tour guide to Al and opens him up to a wealth of new experiences, she gradually smooths over his gruff exterior. How does your perception of Al change throughout the book? Was there a specific moment where you started to find him more likeable?
5. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
is as much a love letter to Milwaukee as it is the love story of Lou and Al. What is your favorite stop on Lou’s tour of the city? Which of their meals are you most eager to try?
6. Devlin says to Lou, “I may shape and bend the facts in my favor or make tactful omissions, but I don’t lie.” Were you surprised to hear Devlin’s explanation for the scantily clad intern in his apartment? Do you think he was telling the whole truth?
7. What do you think about Al’s decision to keep his identity a secret from Lou, particularly after he learns that Luella’s is her restaurant? Are his lies more forgivable than Devlin’s behavior? How would you have handled the situation if you were in Al’s shoes?
8. Lou reflects on the fate of Luella’s: “The fault was hers and hers alone. Taking responsibility gave her the control. Taking responsibility gave her hope she would find happiness again.” What do you make of this sentiment? Do you think that Lou is being too hard on herself—that she’s just the victim of circumstance—or is she to blame for the restaurant’s closure?
9. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
features a vibrant cast of secondary characters, from John, the fashionista in disguise, to Harley, the loveable, tattooed pastry chef. Who is your favorite secondary character? How does he or she influence events or help to move the story along?
10. Gertrude emphasizes the importance of second chances to Lou. “Don’t let your heart get too hard,” she says. “[Al] made you happy. That was not an act. Try to forgive him, promise me.” Do you agree with Gertrude’s belief that a person deserves forgiveness as long as his or her intentions are good? What personal experiences have shaped your own attitude toward second chances?
11. What do you think the future holds for Lou’s new restaurant? What important lessons has she learned from Luella’s?
12. While the story of Luella’s is fictional, it’s not uncommon for a new restaurant to fail because of negative press—particularly in the age of crowd-sourced online reviews. Did the book make you more sympathetic to the plight of struggling business owners and the impact of online reviews? Enhance Your Book Club
1. Host a book club potluck! Have each member bring his or her favorite family dish and describe the origin of the recipe.
2. Plan a day of sightseeing or activities in your hometown. What would you want an out-of-towner to eperience?
3. Have each book club member write a review praising his or her favorite restaurant—or emulate A.W. Wodyski and pan a terrible meal.
4. Learn more about author Amy Reichert by visiting her website http://amyereichert.com or following her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/amyereichert) and/or Twitter (@aereichert).