About The Christmas Cookie Club
Every year at Christmastime, Marnie and her closest girlfriends mark their calendars for a cookie exchange. Everyone brings homemade cookies and a bottle of wine to share, but this year, it’s their stories that are especially important—the passion and hopefulness of new romance, the betrayal and disillusionment some relationships bring, the joys and fears of motherhood, the stress of financial troubles. On this evening, at least, the sisterly love they have for one another rises above it all. Celebrating courage and joy in spite of hard times and honoring the importance of woman’s friendships as well as the embracing bonds of community, the delightful novel speaks to us all.
In addition to laughter and tears, the book is sprinkled with delicious cookie recipes. The Christmas Cookie Club has been translated into German, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Croatian becoming both an international and national bestseller.
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“This novel will satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth. Bonus: each chapter includes cookie recipes.” —USA Today
“Humorous and heartbreaking.” —Library Journal
“Pearlman has delivered a passionate, heartfelt story of women’s friendships and their importance with “The Christmas Cookie Club.” Her characters are personable, and their situations are those that most women have dealt with at some point in their lives. …”The Christmas Cookie Club” would be a perfect gift for girlfriends of all ages this holiday season.” —Las Vegas Review-Journal
“Fans of literary sisterhood get their seasonal fix with [The Christmas Cookie Club].” —Columbus Ledger-Inquirer
“The stories spill out at the group’s annual exchange, as the women reach out to one another. One realizes that “kinship is what you build from the accidents of life.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“If the cookies nourish their bodies, then the story telling that comes as part of the night nourishes their souls…It is an absorbing, heart-warming read, with a dash of romance, a sprinkling of angst and a spoonful of hope. Just like the holidays in general, it’s a time for reflection on the past and resolutions for the future. A simply delicious read.” —The Bookbag Review (UK)
“(The Christmas Cookie Club) is fun, real, sad, happy, insightful…it contains all the ingredients of an excellent recipe that when mixed together makes for a delicious novel…In celebrating courage and joy in spite of hard times, and honoring the importance of women’s friendships as well as the embracing bonds of community, Ann Pearlman has written a novel that speaks to us all.” —Kepler’s Staff
“The Christmas Cookie Club is exactly the kind of Christmas story I was looking for.” —SMS Book Reviews
“I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s got everything you’d want from great chick-lit: great characters that you care about, interesting stories that keep you guessing until the end and a huge readability factor. It’s wonderfully written and a joy to read, any time of year! Highly recommended!” —Chic Lit Reviews (UK)
“Ms. Pearlman has written a book filled with love, friendship and heartache. Even though there are numerous characters, this only serves to enhance the focus of diversified friendships between these women. Besides offering an entertaining storyline, the author also shares cookie recipes. A wonderful holiday book!” —The Romance Readers Connection
“Readers with large groups of friends will love this story of women who support each other through tough times. They will agree with Marnie’s comment at the end of the novel: “And maybe love is, ultimately, the best we get. It doesn’t solve everything, but in spite of it all, it’s the most significant thing we have.” —Book Page
“The story weaves compassion, friendship, hope and love throughout, bringing the reader into the folds of each woman’s background story, as well as the importance of the annual cookie exchange they share together…The Christmas Cookie Club is a wonderful book that I recommend for anyone looking for a delightful, heartwarming and compassionate story of friendship and hope. Also the recipes and food facts add a great bonus!” —Cafe of Dreams Book Review
“The book has taken on a life of it’s own. It’s being printed in seven languages. A movie deal is in the works. Zingerman’s Bakehouse makes a cookie gift-box that looks like a book, but it’s actually filled with 20 holiday cookies…” —Detroit Free Press
“The women love the gathering and find comfort in one another’s company, but the book also relates the stresses and upheavals of their lives-marriage woes, financial meltdowns; [Pearlman] is an earth mother in black nail polish.” —Ann Arbor Observer
“The sequel should appear sometimes in 2011 and believe me, if you have read “The Christmas Cookie Club,” you will be very interested to see what unfolds in the upcoming novel.” —Ann Arbor News
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Prologue: We Gather Every Year
I am the head cookie bitch and this is my party. The Christmas cookie club is always on the first Monday of December. Mark it on your calendar. Twelve of us gather with thirteen dozen cookies wrapped in packages. Homemade, of course. We each bring a dish to pass and a bottle of wine. Sixteen years ago, when we first started, we’d drink the wine and then go dancing. Now we drink some and sit and talk, or put on Al Green and dance at my house. Love and Happiness, that’s our favorite. We take turns telling the story of the cookie we have made. Somehow each story is always emblematic of the year. We pass out our packages and donate the thirteenth dozen to our local hospice. We donated cookies from the beginning. The Christmas cookie club is about giving, not just the yummy morsels we share with our girlfriends and our families, but also with people we don’t know who are having a bleak time and might appreciate a wrapped sweet.
Because believe me, in the Midwest the depth of winter can be bleak. Gray skies. Cold. What daylight there is often overcast. The bountiful lakes make summer glorious, but hang clouds in the winter. You need to add light and joy. After all, isn’t Christmas with its lights, and Chanukah with its candle-flames, about adding illumination to the dark time of year? We need to remind ourselves that the sun will eventually push the night to more reasonable margins. The Christmas cookie club, if it’s anything, is a reminder of delight. And, of course, a reminder that girlfriends help each other to endure the grind and to celebrate the joy.
I have rules that have been devised over the years. Just so you know, if you want to form your own party, here they are:
No chocolate chip cookies. (one year 5 of us made them)
No bars. (They stick to each other and crumble)
No plates covered in saran wrap and bows. Just try carrying twelve paper plates wrapped in saran wrap. I used to be a waitress and even I can’t do it. Plus, they’re too limp to bestow to a charity. The containers have to hold the cookies and make an attractive gift. The added advantage is that we can use the containers later to wrap other presents.
No more than twelve women in the group. One year, there were fifteen and everyone complained it was too difficult to make sixteen dozen cookies. I never got that three more dozen were such a big deal. But I bowed to peer pressure. The group is only twelve. And we make a baker’s dozen cookies. Besides, there’s poetry to that.
You can’t miss a year. If you can’t come, send your cookies or you forfeit your place. There are other people who want to join the group. This rule resulted from the rule above.
After five years of coming to the party you have tenure and aren’t ever dropped unless you don’t bring or send cookies.
It’s always the first Monday in December. Put it on your calendar and count on it.
Bring copies of the recipe for each one of us.
Jackie falls in love, marries and moves east and stops coming. Donna loves the party but hates making cookies. Janine has an affair with a colleague and divorces and she and her lover move to Benton Harbor. Thus positions open for cookie virgins. So the membership ebbs with the flow of our lives. Right after Thanksgiving, we bake, give delights to each other and the hospice, then pass the dozens of different cookies we’ve obtained to friends, family, neighbors, babysitters, and manicurists. They treat the guests of other Christmas and Chanukah and Solstice gatherings. A ripple effect of delicious nibbles in the darkest time of year. A ripple in our lives of the joy of each other.
Chapter One: Marnie
Pecan Butter Balls
2 cups chopped pecans
2 cups flour
1 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoons salt
Chop pecans in blender or food processor. Combine all except confectioner’s sugar. Gather into a ball. With floured hands, shape in one inch balls and bake on ungreased cookie sheet. I line my cookie sheets with wax paper or parchment paper and spray them with Pam. Bake in 325 degree oven for 20 minutes. Pull off the papers and let cookies cool, but make sure they’re still warm and gently shake them in bag with confectioners. Place them back on the paper and add more confectioners while they cool. Makes five dozen.
My dream flutters away as I open my eyes. I stretch my arm out for Jim, but he is gone. Outside, the snow falls in tight crystals, almost like fog. Disney sits laughing beside my bed, his tongue lolling and his tail thumping the carpet. Today is a big and busy day and I had better start it. Reluctantly, I leave the remnants of the dream in the still warm bed and slide on my lavender fleece bathrobe, let Disney out, pour last night’s coffee in a cup, and zap it in the microwave. My hands plunge under my armpits for warmth as Disney disappears behind the garage. I didn’t cut back the perennials and now snow clumps in the hollows. Should have mowed the lawn one last time. The microwave tings and I grab the coffee and continue staring absentmindly out the window. Seven A.M. Only four in San Diego. I wonder if Sky is awake. She’s supposed to get her results today…sometime this afternoon, her time. During the Christmas cookie party.
Disney bounds from behind the garage, black ears flopping and sits at the sliding glass door. He runs in when I open it and shakes off the snow. “You doing a good job bringing in winter?” I ask him.
He wags his tail.
“Good boy.” He has simple answers to all my questions.
I sip my coffee and scan the kitchen and dining room. The cookie party forces me to get decorated for Christmas. Mini bulbs are strung on the tree outside. Chili pepper lights surround my kitchen window. Yesterday I trimmed my tree with the crocheted and macramÃ© ornaments I used to sell at the town’s art fair in my hippie days. A few wrapped presents and my collection of Teddy bears cluster around the base. The one that Alex bought Sky for her first birthday lost an eye twenty years ago and Sky knitted him a lopsided red sweater when she was ten. A Steiff Teddy I bought when I was in Germany with Stephen holds his arms open waiting for a hug. Tara’s Teddy bear sits in her perfection with a pink dress and tiara. Pretty, but unloved. I plug the tree lights in and it looks like Christmas.
After I turn up the thermostat, I make my bed, straighten the room, and slide on some jeans and a red tee-shirt. Then I tie on my cookie bitch apron, the one Allie had made with the stenciled cookie rules. At first, the pecans clattering around the Cuisinart sound angry until the nuts are sufficiently broken. This year, Sky and Tara will get an extra dozen of the pecan balls so the recipe is multiplied by three and a half. I put the butter, a pound and a half of it, in a glass container and turn on the microwave. My mother’s Kitchen Aid mixer is on the counter. I add in the measures of flour, sugar, vanilla and salt. The microwave dings and I pour in the melted butter and turn on the mixer. While it stirs, I pull out cookie sheets, and reach in the drawer for parchment paper. Then I scrape down the batter into the depths of the bowl and this batch is done. I turn my ipod to my rock play list and Tina Turner wonders what’s love got to do with it. Everything, I tell her. But I remember my dream and wonder if I had it because I love Jim or simply because I just want to recapture our great sex. Maybe both. I don’t really like that I’ve fallen so in love with him. Flour feathers my hands as they roll the balls and I dote on the methodical, rhythmical work. My hands place the morsels in rows of four across the top edge of the sheet. Three dozen on each sheet. The simplicity and beauty of the math, and the routine reminds me of women spinning yarn with a drop spindle, kneading dough, harvesting berries, beading shoes, weaving, or grinding corn. I am connected to those ancient women, and to women around the world as all of us, each of us, make food, clothes, tools for our families, our friends, ourselves. I place one sheet in the oven and start on the next. The easy part is done. For a few minutes I return to the peaceful rolling, and place the sheet in the oven, check the timer. Five more minutes.
I cover the dining room table with sheets of parchment paper, fill a plastic bag with confectioner’s sugar, and place potholders in the center of the table. The timer rings. I drag out a sheet and rest it on the table. The cookies are the brown of fall oak leaves, the aroma of cooked pecans fills the room. Seger sings about autumn rushing in and here it is winter. Already. How did it happen so quickly this year? I think about the revolving seasons and the motions we go through during each of them. I start rolling balls for the third sheet. And then slide the loaded parchment from the hot sheet onto the table, put the metal on the stove to cool and gently place the balls in confectioners. The work must be done quickly, the cookies can’t be too cool or the confectioners won’t soak in. Too hot and fingers get burned. The second sheet is done and I go into the kitchen to retrieve it. The phone rings.
I jerk around to reach the receiver lying on the counter next to the empty butter container and hit my cheek on the corner of an open upper cabinet. The door bangs closed, my cheek smarts and the sting spreads.
“You can’t sleep, uh?”
I can’t stop working so I cradle the phone to my shoulder while my hands continue adding balls to the sugar bag.
“Nope. Just tossing and turning. Afraid I’d wake up Troy.” Sky’s voice trembles slightly.
The cookies roll in the sugar. “I wondered if you were sleeping.”
“I figured you’d be up making cookies.”
“You’re right. I just got out the first sheet. I’m shaking them in confectioners now.”
“Ah. Nana’s pecan balls.”
I didn’t know that Sky and Troy were trying to get pregnant that first time three years ago. After all, they were both in law school and Sky plans her life to achieve her goals. Bit she called to brag that they had gotten pregnant on the very first try. The way she said it, “We got pregnant on our first try,” and then giggled, it sounded almost as if they had never made love before.
I bought fabric to make my first grandchild a quilt, was carrying it into the house, when she called, crying. She had lost the baby.
“Darling. I’m so sorry.” My voice fell. “You’ll be blue for a few months.”
“That’s what the doctor said. She said we could try again in six months. This is one helluva period.” Sky sniffled and then tried to muster a laugh. “‘It’s not unusual to have a miscarriage. Especially for the first one,’ she said.”
“I’ll come be with you.”
“You don’t have to.” But her voice lilted with relief.
But then the next year she had a second miscarriage. Again she called to tell me, again I flew out to be with her. “I wish you were closer.”
When she was pregnant the third time, we held our breaths. I tried to wipe the tinge of concern from my voice when we talked. The pregnancy continued. “Maybe I should quit work,” she wondered. “But they’re monitoring this pregnancy.” By the fourth month, I breathed again. Then in the eight month, movement stopped. An ultrasound indicated the baby had died.
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