Ideals and reality collide when six college friends band together to start an ice cream store, promising “Better Food for a Better World,” but finding a worse world than they had expected.
It seems like a great idea: six friends from college pool their money and energy to start an ice cream store. Natural High Ice Cream: Better Food for a Better World. It’s high-minded, with a wink, like the marital self-help group they all belong to. The store finds a ready clientele in its northern California college town filled with amiable ex-hippies who are happy to contribute to a better world, even if all they have to contribute is the price of an ice cream cone.
But the store, like the marriage group, turns out to be work, not fun, and rifts start to appear between the friends. Nancy, who had seemed so easygoing and sweetly sexy when they started, turns stern. Cecilia, who had wanted to be a musician, is openly bored. And flighty, excitable Vivy is crawling out of her skin. She yearns for the old days, before Natural High, when she and her husband Sam traveled around the country with countercultural musicians and dancers. She’d give anything to have those days back again.
And so quietly, without telling the partners, she starts to rev up the old company, contacting her old acts—the fat contortionist, the muscle-bound juggler. She’s going to save them all, and Natural High, too. But saving turns out to be harder than it looks, and Vivy isn’t the only one with secrets.
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
What great pleasure to find a book as full of life as this one is—its characters so marvelously charged with energy, its plot so deliciously idiosyncratic that a reader might be forgiven for failing to properly appreciate the novel’s athletic, deceptively simple prose. This is the true rarity in contemporary literature: a book overflowing with profound, authentic joy.
PINCKNEY BENEDICT, author of Miracle Boy and Other Stories
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.
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.