Leah DeCesare’s debut novel Forks, Knives and Spoons (SparkPress) is a fun, fast-paced story that evokes both comedy and heart as a single dad sends his only daughter off to college with some last-ditch birds-and-bees advice.

According to his Utensil Classification System, or UCS, all men can be categorized as a knife, fork or spoon when it comes to women. Forks are smoothies who pretend to care and will probably play the field.

Knives may be a little less confident around women but have an edge that exhibits strength of character, with steak knives possessing the ideal amount of edge. Spoons are nerds, with no clue about women and often lazy to boot. Then there are the occasional sporks—nerds who act like forks—and chopsticks, who defy categorization and are just plain difficult.

As the book opens, the ambitious and romantic Amy York begins her freshman year at Syracuse University in 1988, ready to find the man who will be her perfect steak knife. Although her elegant and more realistic roommate Veronica Warren is skeptical about the benefits of UCS, she and Amy become close and supportive friends.

The story spans their freshman and senior years together as each woman makes her way through the very public and less-than-kind world of college dating and then early post-college years as they move to New York City and experience dating in the working world after that. What feeds the narrative throughout is the satisfying friendship that they share as they open their hearts to each other and to the men they meet.

Amy was raised by her single dad in a small Connecticut town while Veronica comes from a prominent family in Newport, Rhode Island, yet both struggle to please their parents, sometimes at great personal expense. The romantic attachments of both women play a significant part in the story as well.

The flaws and strengths of their male companions—forks, spoons and knives included—provide relatable and comic relief to the story and spur the two women to maturity and lives that promises to be far richer than they can ever envision in their early college days.

Despite being set in the late 1980s there is nothing dated about this book. I was initially put off to think this would be a tale about young women going to college to find Mr. Right, but DeCesare drills down more deeply. The real story is about the coming-of-age struggle to know and value your true self no matter what.

Amy and Veronica eventually see that growth will come from figuring out what they themselves want out of their lives, to be happy and whole without putting a man—or their parents—first.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was the frequent appearance of soothing yet honest parental pushes about the need to value oneself, seeming to echo DeCesare’s non-fiction writings about parenting. These refrains illuminate the growth not only of the two young women, but of their parents as well. It is a deceptively simple concept but so difficult to achieve that we keep having to re-find our true selves throughout our lives.

This is lovely escape fiction that resonates well. We have all faced our coming-of-age moments and still do, be it with our aging selves, our children, or simply with any of those people we hold dear.

This is a great read for a wintry weekend, with a cup of hot cocoa in hand and some eighties music that matches the novel’s references to Daisy razors, Noxzema tubes, Filofax organizers, Wang computers and the warm nostalgia of college life.

Forks, Knives and Spoons is now available to purchase.

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Image courtesy of http://www.leahdecesare.com

Leah DeCesare’s childhood dream was to become an author, though she never expected her first book to be about parenting. The Naked Parenting series stemmed from her main gig as mother of three and she writes between car pools and laundry.

Forks, Knives, and Spoons is her debut novel. (SparkPress, April 2017).  Leah has also written articles for publication in The Huffington Post, the International Doula, The Key, and other online outlets and local publications.