The Barnes & Noble Review
Enid Futterman's Bittersweet Journey is far from your typical first fiction. Designed by Alexander Isley and sumptuously packaged, the book looks just like a box of expensive chocolates. Using high-quality paper throughout, Bittersweet Journey is also full of the author's color photographs, exotic recipes, and the addresses and phone numbers of the real chocolatiers visited by the book's protagonist.
In this delightfully delicious novel, the powerful forces of obsession and chocolate are explored by Charlotte, a passionate woman who leaves a "successful" marriage to seek out more love, more sex, and more chocolate. "Eating chocolate," Charlotte realizes after cheating on her husband and polishing off a jar of chocolate sauce, "was like having a slut for a best friend. It was a bad influence."
Searching for some sort of satisfaction, Charlotte travels the globe. Her cravings take her from Greenwich Village to the chocolate capitals of the world Paris, Vienna, Brussels, Zurich, New Hampshire, and even Hawaii. Charlotte continually finds romance in these various locales, but her love affairs leave her unsatisfied and hungry yet again.
Charlotte's journey ultimately leads her home to Brooklyn, where her true love has been waiting all along. Throughout this journey, Enid Futterman's gorgeous photos complement the text and provide readers with an opportunity to explore the dark and erotic relationships of chocolate and love. The ideal Valentine's Day gift, Bittersweet Journey is the perfect book for lovers of all kinds.
An extraordinary treat, Bittersweet Journey is a beautifully poetic first fiction. Futterman combines the story of Charlotte's attempt to find true love, with a collection of eccentric and artful photographs of chocolate. From the first page, we know we are in for an unforgettable experience. Though it looks like an elegant gift book, its presentation disguises a haunting novella. With humor, compassion and bravery, Futterman reveals much about love, yearning and all kinds of human hunger. Every woman--and every man who truly cares about women--should read this book.
San Francisco Chronicle
With the compression of poetry and the candor of memoir, Futterman pens a modern fable in Bittersweet Journey, infusing her archetypal hungry woman with yearnings at once specific and resonant, uncloseting the secret of eating that is every girl-child's inner wagging finger. The passion is chocolate because it's dark, narcotizing, melting, and sticky.
Enid Futterman is not the first to write about chocolate and desire with great sensuality, but she may be the most intense. At its best, Futterman's writing recalls Marguerite Duras, another writer known for transforming her erotic life into smoldering fiction. Here is a woman whose obsession surely outstrips your own, and you are unlikely to have made a pilgrimage halfway around the globe to weigh the relative merits of the finest bonbons, ganaches, and truffes. Along with Charlotte's internal and external journeys, true chocolate junkies will be euphoric on finding the addresses for all the chocolate shops to which she refers. She also throws in four recipes a la Nora Ephron and Laura Esquivel. But Futterman's passion doesn't stop at the written word. A superb photographer, she accompanies Bittersweet Journey with pictures of chocolate viewed waaaay up close. There's such a superabundance of chocolate here, we can be grateful she left one thing out--a calorie count.
Maureen M. Carmen
The subtitle of this charming book says it all. It is the story of a woman's search for the perfect truffle, and the perfect man, a dual quest that is not a trifle. Charlotte begins with candy kisses in the Brooklyn of her childhood and proceeds through her teens and young adulthood seeking the most incredible chocolate in London, Paris, and Brussels, while simultaneously finding new ways to both break and mend her heart. A delightful journey.
Enid Futterman's unique amalgamation of sensuality and chocolate is blended into a visually stunning book that is part novel, part photography book, part erotica, part travel essay, and part cookbook.
The Book Report@aol.com
Read an Excerpt
Her father's kisses were candy bars, which her mother had forbidden.
Every evening at seven, Charlotte would hear his key in the lock and she would run to greet him. He would not lift her into his arms, but he would smile their secret smile before he removed his hat and coat and hung them in the closet of the hall.
She would wait until he had walked wearily down the hall and into the bathroom to wash his hands. Then she would open the closet and put her hand in the pocket of his heavy grey overcoat. She would smell it before she felt it, thin, flat, and hard. The words of her parents' sharp voices were garbled, but she could hear the round sound of her own heart beating. She would lift her treasure quickly from its hiding place, and hide it again, hoping her mother was too busy feeding, or finding fault with her father, to notice.
After supper, which she would pick at, after I Remember Mama or Father Knows Best, she would brush her teeth and hair, take off her school clothes, and put on her pajamas. She would turn off the light, climb under heavy blankets, reach under her pillow, and unwrap it slowly and quietly in the darkness. She would close her eyes and open her mouth.
It quieted and excited her at the same time. Everything about it was a relief--its flavor, color, fragrance, even its name, which was so like hers. Sometimes she would whisper it, like a magic word, as if by saying it, she could taste it. It was a word of consonants, a collision of hard and soft sounds. She would utter them slowly, savoring even the tiny silence between the two syllables, and the almost inaudible t.
To Charlotte, a chocolate bar was a Hershey bar. Nothing else could provoke the same hopeful, fearful anticipation, or provide the same profound pleasure. And although it was milk chocolate (which, otherwise, she hated), it was darker; to the innocent palate of a child, it was almost bittersweet.
She loved its plainness; almonds would get in the way. She loved the glossy brown paper and the shiny silver letters that caught her eye in movie houses, grocery stores, and subway stations, long after she had grown up. She even loved the stories of American soldiers who gave Hershey bars to grateful French girls. Her father was her American hero, and she 400 was his jeune fille. Until she turned twelve and entered that brief time in the life of a woman when she is, or believes herself to be, herself.
At twelve, she knew things, and could do things. Snap pictures with her own camera. Take the subway to Coney Island and ride a Steeplechase horse. Buy her own chocolate bars at the candy store around the corner.
At twelve, when her mother did not even cook, other mothers baked. Charlotte was not impressed by cakes, not even chocolate ones, or brownies. Too much cake; not enough chocolate. But when another mother made fudge, she was allowed to stir the bubbling brown mixture with a wooden spoon, tracing the shape of a figure eight on the bottom of the pot. The pot was a cauldron; the figure eight, a hex symbol.
Her first taste of fudge came years before her first kiss, but it was just as sensational. A familiar, beloved taste was suffused with warmth and depth, and it stirred her in a completely new way, instilling the false hope that her own mother, who considered sugar poison, would make fudge too.
In the middle of that night, on her way to the bathroom, Charlotte saw a light, and in it, her mother, with a strange and sad expression on her face. Her book was lying facedown, on the arm of the easy chair. Charlotte's gaze was as fixed as her mother's, until her eyes wandered to an open box of Barton's kosher bonbons. A relative had brought them for Passover, but they had disappeared faster than the afikomen. She returned to bed, angry but resolute. the other mother would teach her how to make fudge; she would give herself permission to eat it.
Shortly after her thirteenth birthday, the window that had open began to close. The boys she wanted were not the boys who wanted her. She was baffled. Her father adored her; why didn't they? But her father left her every morning before she awoke, so that he could be in his office in New York at seven. "New York" was what people who lived in Brooklyn called Manhattan.
Long before she left home, she had forgotten how to make fudge, and had withdrawn the permission she had given herself to eat chocolate. She had become her own mother, and could no longer receive her father's kisses.