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Forks, Knives, and Spoons: A Novel

Forks, Knives, and Spoons: A Novel

by Leah DeCesare


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2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition Semifinalist
2018 International Book Awards Winner in Fiction: General
2017 IAN Book of the Year Award for Outstanding Women’s Fiction
2017 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal for New Adult Fiction
2017 NYC Big Book Awards Winner for Women’s Fiction
2017 National Indie Excellence Book Awards Winner: Contemporary Fiction
2017 National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist: Women's Fiction
2017 Independent Press Awards Distinguished Favorites: New Fiction
2017 Best Book Awards Finalist: Best New Fiction

For readers who love Adriana Trigiani, Jennifer Weiner and Liane Moriarty, Forks, Knives, and Spoons is a light-hearted, thought-provoking coming of age story that takes readers on a nostalgic journey back to the 1980s and 1990s. Romantic, witty and warm.

There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York’s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond.

Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys—from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks—all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves—and not to settle in love or life.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943006106
Publisher: SparkPress
Publication date: 04/18/2017
Pages: 408
Sales rank: 1,157,504
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Leah DeCesare is the author of the nonfiction parenting series Naked Parenting, based on her work as a doula, early parenting educator, and mom of three. Her articles on parenting have been featured in The Huffington Post, the International Doula, and The Key, among others. In 2008, she cofounded the nonprofit Doulas of Rhode Island, and in 2013 she spearheaded the Campaign for Hope to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness in Uganda. In a past life, DeCesare worked in public relations and event planning. She now writes, teaches, and volunteers in Rhode Island, where she lives with her family and talking cockatiel.

Read an Excerpt

Forks, Knives and Spoons

a novel

By Leah DeCesare


Copyright © 2017 Leah DeCesare
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-943006-11-3


THERE ARE THREE TYPES of GUYS: forks, knives, and spoons. Amy unpacked her dad's words along with her yellow Sony Walkman, turquoise Benetton sweater, and peach comforter set. His lesson was tucked carefully in her memory, the details recorded in her reporter's notebook, available for labeling the college guys she was about to meet. She would adhere to her father's advice — she always did — though she wasn't about to let any guy distract her from her dream of being a journalist, not even a perfect steak knife.

Thomas York had been animated in his utensil descriptions, and Amy sensed an aging single father's wishes for his daughter lingering behind his words. His enthusiasm that night at Bella's restaurant swept over her in a feeling of homesickness before she had even left. Now, Amy pushed down a nervous longing for home. She plugged in her new Brother word processor (her father had splurged for the large-screen version with fifteen lines visible at once) and worried about him alone in their house. The two were knotted together with trust, love, and household chores, and while he encouraged her writing, she always heard his old-fashioned hope for her to find a husband wiggle into his advice. As the machine powered on, she mulled the idea of a feature story on men as they fit into the Utensil Classification System. Her undeniable romanticism mingled with her journalistic inclinations, and she envisioned her byline: Amy M. York.

Car horns and hollers splatted against the glass. Amy startled and, with a yank, slid open the window overlooking the vast patio sprawled between two dorm towers. Puddles of freshmen in stiff new Syracuse T-shirts turned together like flocks of birds facing the wind. As the honks of the cars slowed, shouts from the courtyard circulated. Amy scanned the scene. To the edge of her sight line, she saw a flutter of guys encircling a blond pouf. As they shifted and helped, it was clear the girl had fallen, purple suitcases splayed around her, and Amy noticed a bright purple skateboard, wheels up, just beyond. The story is in the details, she thought, turning away from the fading commotion outside and refocusing on her new home.

She kicked her Tretorns under the desk and walked around the wall that divided the room, which had shelves and a long counter built into each side. From the doorway, Amy examined her roommate's half with a journalist's eye. All she had was a hint from the assignment letter: Veronica Warren, Newport, Rhode Island. Veronica's side of the room was tasteful and meticulously neat. Practical and serious, her bed had only one deep-blue pillow that matched her Laura Ashley floral bedding. Amy glanced at the heap of pastel-toned throws on her own peachy, pinky, paisley comforter, knowing this might be the only time her bed would be made. A small lamp with an inky shade was beside Veronica's bed, spotlighting a framed photo of a bulky guy with a round, boyish face.

Without stepping fully onto Veronica's side, Amy hungrily sought for clues of the person she would be sharing this small space with for more than nine months. In another picture she saw the same puerile face pressed against a fair-skinned girl with a starburst of red hair and a thin nose that came to a pretty, slightly turned-up point at the end. Red curls spilled around her face and around half of his, too. The photo gallery displayed scenes of the couple in aligned rows of dark cherry frames. Curls flung about her on a sailboat, cascaded at a prom, escaped from a woolen hat on a snowy peak, and were the only thing out of place on her entire side of their dorm room.

A crescendo of noise in the hallway was punctuated by slamming doors. A cheer of "Woo-hoo! Class of '92 rocks!" drew Amy from her room. Coming toward her was a girl with blond bangs curled under onto her forehead; the hair just behind was curled up and teased into a feathered dome. She wore white shorts, frayed at the edges, and a boyfriend-sized football jersey. One knee was raw with scrapes. Heads bobbed out of doorways to see what they were missing.

The girl glided down the gray carpet that barely softened the concrete floor beneath it and shouted, "Go Brewster Floor Eight!" She streaked toward Amy on a skateboard, tugging two purple suitcases behind her.

"What's your name? Where are you from? I'm from California. It's going to be such an awesome year! Go class of '92! Don't you think it'll be awesome? I'm so psyched! I'm Jenny. Jenny Callista," she said as if she loved saying her own name.

Amy tried to slip in an answer, not sure Jenny was still interested. "Hi, I'm Amy York."

Jenny leaned past Amy and pulled the dry erase marker from its Velcro. In swirly letters, she formed a D, changed her mind, erased it, and then wrote Jenny Was Here on the message board affixed to Amy's door.

"I'm in the single room at the end of the hall. See ya later!" She pushed off and Amy watched as she skated four doors down.

"Your first college friend."

Amy whirled toward the voice, coming face-to-face with a blast of red curls.


The roommates left the continuing bustle of the hallway, where families lugged armfuls of geometric-patterned area rugs, red-and-black comforters, and wooden-framed futons, trying to give personality to the stark, white-walled rooms. Plastic bathroom buckets spilled with toothbrushes, pink Daisy razors, and containers of blue Sea Breeze toner. Bottles ofJhirmack and Vidal Sassoon shampoos, tubs of Noxzema, shiny cans of Aqua Net, and atomizers of Love's Baby Soft tumbled from stacking baskets on wheels.

In room 808, the girls felt at ease together, talking and laughing like old friends even as they asked the basic get-to-know-you questions. Amy sat at Veronica's desk, watching her tidy something in her already organized closet. Navy-blue towels were stacked like a department store display on Veronica's shelf; beside them were baskets of folded underwear and bundled socks. In an effortless rush of words, the two chattered over and between each other, at once hearing, asking, listening, and answering.

"Who's the guy?" Amy asked, pointing to the pictures.

Veronica sat on her bed and tucked her fleshy pale legs beneath her. "Eric, my boyfriend," she said. "Our families have been friends forever, but junior-year prom was our first date."

"Is he your steak knife?"

"What?" Veronica pulled her knees to her full chest.

Amy laughed and twisted her straight brown hair around her finger; she was forever trying to make it curl. She had been thinking about the Utensil Classification System since her father's college send-off talk and categorizing guys as utensils already seemed normal, like something that should make sense to other people.

"Oh, right, the Steak Knife Theory. This was my dad's idea of a last-ditch birds-and-bees sort of talk."

For the first time of many to come, Amy retold her father's lesson, elaborating as she went.

THE HOSTESS'S PERFUME STILL swirled and menus balanced in the air as Tom York anxiously dove into his lesson. "There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons," Amy's dad said, laying out the silverware in front of Amy on the white restaurant tablecloth that August night.

"There are the forks, they are the smoothies." Her dad took a deep breath, pacing himself. "The forks are the guys who are cocky, they'll poke you. These are the guys to be especially careful of, the forks," he repeated for emphasis.

They sat in the front window of Bella's restaurant, their favorite spot overlooking Main Street in Newtown. Amy had lived in the same house with her dad her whole life, and the small Connecticut town was a part of who she was. It seemed the precollege dinner was supposed to be the "Big Talk" before Amy headed out on her own. It was her dad's Cliffs Notes version of A Dad s Guide to Guys in the way only Tom York could deliver.

"The forks," he explained, "are the guys that won't care about you. They will make you think they care, but they won't have any problem playing the field."

"So, the forks are the 'fuck-and-chuckers'?" Amy concluded after his description, laying the napkin in her lap. Not one for cursing, she shocked herself by blurting out the biggest possible swear in front of her dad. He laughed and nodded, and his exhale seemed to say, Maybe she gets it a little bit.

Amy thumbed the menu and noticed the sweat on her dad's forehead in the air-conditioned restaurant. A tenderness swelled in her chest.

"The Yorks! Ciao!" boomed Giovanni's unmistakable voice across the dining room. "What's the occasion tonight?" he asked, tucking a silk handkerchief into his jacket pocket before slapping Tom on the back and kissing Amy.

"Amy's heading off to Syracuse next week," her father said with pride and sadness. "I'm going to miss her."

"Ah, and so will I! I remember when you were only a little one! Here in your white christening gown! And now! Off to college!" Giovanni enthused every phrase.

Her dad tapped the knife as Giovanni exited to the kitchen, bringing Amy back to the lesson. With his index finger leaving prints on the shining blade, he continued his instruction. "This is the biggest group of guys. The knives are the middle of the road, they're not cocky like the forks. They may be a little less confident, but not necessarily lacking in confidence." As he did with the forks, and would again when he got to the spoons, her dad warned, "You still have to be careful, but the knives are the guys with potential. The nice guys will be in the knife category."

The knives are the good guys? Amy thought. Where is he getting this? Knives cut, slice, dice, and carve. This is the perfect guy? Maybe he hasn't thought this through. She was puzzled by his logic and wondered if this was all off-the-cuff. It seemed to be spontaneous, but had he sat up nights deciding how to give his only child this crash course in men?

She challenged him about his choice in utensils: "Seriously, Dad? Knives cut — they can't be the 'good guy' category."

"The ideal guy is a knife, Amy," he said with certainty, and stuck with his label. "The knives are right in the middle, they have an edge and can be sharp when they need to be. Not too sharp and not too dull. They're smart. They have drive, fortitude, strength of character, and they may not be as sure of themselves around girls as the forks are, but they will find their confidence."

Hmm, maybe he has given this some thought.

The waitress swished by with sparkling water and warm bread. Amy chuckled and added traits and descriptions to the forks and knives, but before she could elaborate much, her dad interrupted, determined to get through the coaching session. He adjusted the silverware laid out before his daughter, tidying the row: the fork to the left, the knife dotted with smudges in the center, and the spoon to the right.

As if he couldn't stop, her father eagerly went on with the demonstration. "Then you have the spoons. Simply put, these are the nerds, the geeks. They don't poke, they don't have edge, they're maybe even bland. Spoons may be wimpy and dull, boring and nervous. Spoons are what you kids call the dorks."

Names came to her head to fit the categories; she knew examples of each. Amy nodded at this simple Utensil Classification System and she felt impressed with her dad in a new way. He was an entrepreneur and a sharp negotiator. Maybe sharp isn't such a bad trait in a guy after all, she acknowledged. He was also a numbers whiz, and with his going-away chat, Amy got a glimpse into a less visible side of her dad. Unless he was talking math, she had never known him to speak in symbols.

He leaned forward, appearing drained. He looked his daughter in the eye. "Amy, I'm not a young man and I want to know you're cared for, that you have a companion to love. I've treasured raising you, but it's not easy doing this alone." He lifted his glass to her. "Go out there and bring home a good knife."

Amy smiled and her blue eyes shone with admiration. Her dad carefully rewrapped his silverware into the cloth napkin and bestowed the final moral: "And remember, Amy, every guy is thinking about getting a girl into the napkin."


VERONICA NODDED AND LAUGHED politely at Amy's descriptions of cutlery guys. Her new roommate wasn't anything like her friends back in Newport, but she liked her.

"Speaking of dads, my father should be back home now. He asked me to call him tonight," Veronica said, and excused herself to the floor pay phone.

Susan Warren answered on the fourth ring.

"Hi, Mom. Your voice is hoarse, are you okay? You sound like you've been crying."

"Oh, hello, darling, yes, I'm fine. Your father just got home a short time ago. I hear you're settled in."

"Yes, I'm all organized and I like my roommate. I wish you could've come, too."

"I'll just get your father, I know he was waiting for your call. Have fun at school, sweetheart. Gerald ..."

Veronica perched on the stool and fidgeted with the silver phone cord. The elevators pinged past and she coughed from the scent of ammonia and newly painted cinder block walls. The small lobby was furnished with a fake-wood-grain Formica table and wood-framed couches, which were covered in pilled maroon fabric with evidence of past freshman classes stained into them.

She heard her father clear his throat. "Hi, honey."

"Hey, Dad, thanks for helping me move in. I really wish Mom came with us."

"I'm sorry your mother couldn't be there, too. You know how hard these milestones are. She's always thinking about your brother," he apologized, and she pictured him tugging the sleeve of his custom-tailored dress shirt.

"I know, Dad, but I wish she'd be happy with my milestones," Veronica whispered.

"We both know you'll be great."

"Thanks, Dad." As she gently replaced the receiver, she felt a familiar disappointment and a subtle envy toward her brother that made her feel guilty.

SORORITY RUSH BEGAN SOON after classes started, and on the final day of parties, Veronica woke early to pounding on the door. She and Amy had stayed up late with Kate Anula, who lived down the hall, watching the Steve Martin movie Roxanne until two in the morning. The romantic comedy left Amy in tears and had her new friends teasing her as they handed her tissues.

"Who's knocking at eight on a Saturday morning?" Veronica muttered, getting up when the rapping persisted. She shuffled to the door to find Jenny smiling, already showered, made up, and hair sprayed high.

"Let's go! Up and at 'em! It's the big day!"

"But we don't need to be there until nine thirty," Veronica grumbled, moving to close the door on her, but Jenny slipped in with her hyper, radio-static wake-up call.

Jenny plunked herself at the foot of Amy's bed and started prattling. Veronica shook her head as Jenny chirped a morning narration.

"So what are your first parties today? I think we're together for the first round. I really met some great girls in Kappa, I so want to get into that house. Who did you meet there? Didn't you love the songs they sang? I like Tri-Delt, too."

Amy had no choice, so she rolled into the day and hopped out of bed, grabbing what she always grabbed first: her toothbrush. Veronica still marveled at how her roommate could be perky and full of sunshine, even when she was tired or the Syracuse weather was dismal and dreary.

All the girls who were rushing bustled about the bathroom in varying states of undress and wakefulness. Aqua Net filled the air and curling irons sizzled split ends. For the longest day of rush parties, Jenny wore a dress with a ditzy floral print, Amy had on her favorite Esprit skirt with her gold Add-a-Bead necklace, and Veronica settled on a navy V-neck dress, trying to downplay her plentiful breasts.

They fell into step with the parade of young coeds and found themselves on display. Neighboring fraternities dragged out living room couches, lined up lawn chairs, and hung along porch railings to view the prospective pledges marching before them. Whistles and cheers erupted and waned above the music that blasted from window-sized speakers and echoed off buildings.

The hours were filled with nibbling, smiling, and chattering. At the end of the day, as the rushees walked along Comstock Avenue, they were given a glimpse, or a full exhibition, of college-boy behavior. On the sidewalk, a naked masked man jogged by, swinging around to whoops of male encouragement. One pass wasn't enough, so the disguised streaker dashed across the girls' path again, earning smirks and discreet but curious stares.

Amy leaned toward Veronica and said, "I wonder what kind of guy is under that gorilla mask. Do you think he's a poor spoon being suckered into this? I bet a nice knife wouldn't bare all and run around campus, right?" Veronica hesitated, unsure if Amy was seriously evaluating this guy with a code of cutlery she'd assumed was just a lark.


Excerpted from Forks, Knives and Spoons by Leah DeCesare. Copyright © 2017 Leah DeCesare. Excerpted by permission of BookSparks.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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