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Cooking for Harry

Cooking for Harry Cover



Reading Group Guide

Harry became a fabulous cook. It began with a simple indulgence: secret bowls of buttery popcorn that he and his wife, Francie, would share after the children were tucked into bed. The aroma of melting butter, the hot kernels on their tongues, the salt crystals sticking to their lips—it was their own private romantic feast, imbuing their marriage with a new kind of passion. Soon, Harry began to dazzle Francie with luscious bisques and brioches, delectable soufflés, rich risottos, and classic versions of coq au vin that left her breathless.

Their family life came to revolve around the dinner table, where each night Harry’s cooking brought Francie and their four children together for an awe-inspiring and mouthwatering meal. But inevitably the years slip by, and when all but one child has left the house, Harry wins a digital scale in his company’s Holiday Raffle and their happy bubble bursts in a single instant. Harry’s cooking has finally caught up with him. His doctor confirms it: He desperately needs to lose weight.

Terrified of losing him, Francie puts Harry on a strict diet, leaving him eternally frustrated at the table and in the kitchen. When they both realize that he has to take a break from his culinary passions if this diet is to work, Francie begins to cook. Eventually a younger-looking, leaner, and more driven Harry emerges—one so newly committed to his job and his low-carb support group that not only is he no longer in the kitchen, he’s hardly ever at home. Feeling confused by the dynamics of their new relationship, Francie must contend with her need to keep Harry on his diet, and also with the women who have suddenly begun to eye her truly attractive husband. The question now becomes: Will love be enough to keep this marriage together, or will the Atkins Diet ultimately tear Harry and Francie apart?

Pop a pan of cookies into the oven and put up your feet. Cooking for Harry is a deliciously good time.

From the Hardcover edition.

1. What do you think about Harry’s cooking—and eating? What role does it play in his life? In his marriage? When did it become an issue?

2. Why doesn’t Francie really notice or object to Harry’s slow, constant weight gain? What does she have to gain by ignoring it? What does she stand to lose by addressing the ever-growing problem?

3. How is Harry’s cooking and eating a family concern? What

roles do the various family members play in his weight gain and

weight loss (consider the children’s nicknames)? How does the

family contribute to the problem and its solution? Do you think

this family is dysfunctional?

4. Why does it take a talking scale to tell Harry the truth?

5. How does Harry’s community—his neighbors and associates—

react to his diet? If you have ever dieted, do you find their responses

to his dieting typical? Why are friends not always the most supportive people when it comes to dieting and other significant habit changes?

6. Eating is one of life’s great pleasures. When does it go from

being a pleasure to being a problem? When, if ever, is some kind

of intervention appropriate? In your own experience, does intervention


7. Harry’s diet, with its gym regimen and support groups, takes

up a lot of his time and, it seems, starts making him into a

new, improved person. Why doesn’t this lead straight to happiness?

When and how does this start to be a problem for


8. What does Francie’s high school relationship with Lisa tell us

about Francie? What emotions and assumptions from this old

relationship have lingered in Francie and affect how she looks

at life in middle age?

9. “People change,” Francie says, then admits that she hasn’t.

How has dieting changed Harry in unexpected ways? How does

Francie have to change?

10. Discuss Kay-Marie James’s use of images and symbols: the

scale, a storebought cake, a borrowed handkerchief, a white

sofa. What stories do these objects tell?

11. How is adultery handled in this book? Lightly? Forgivingly?

Believably? Can adultery ever be good for a marriage?

12. What do you think of Francie going on her anniversary

cruise with Tommy Choi? Was it fair play? Too risky? In what

way was the storm “perfect”?

13. Malva, the neighbor, says, “There are two hundred sides to

every story. . . . But all of them end the same. Somebody has to

apologize.” Who should apologize for what in this novel?

14. What factors ultimately save Francie and Harry’s marriage?

15. Why do you suppose the author wrote Cooking for Harry

under a pseudonym? Do you have any idea which bestselling

New York Times author wrote this book? How can you support

your hunch?

16. How dietetic is this novel? Did it inspire you to go on or stay

on a diet—or did it make you hungry for a big, beautiful bowl

of buttered, salty popcorn?

Product Details

A Novel
Ballantine Books
James, Kay-Marie
New York
Reducing diets
Weight Loss
Married people
Domestic fiction
Overweight men
General Fiction
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.08x5.24x.57 in. .40 lbs.

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Cooking for Harry
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Product details 224 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780345453716 Reviews:
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