“Saved By Cake - Over 80 Ways to Bake Yourself Happy” by Marian Keyes (Plume, 237 pages, $25).
The Irish novelist Marian Keyes has had a stellar career. Over 20 million copies of her books have been sold. Her stories are written with humor. And they have addressed serious matters like alcoholism and domestic abuse.
Keyes has been dealing with some troubling personal issues. She has been battling depression. She took a lengthy break from writing because she just didn’t feel up to it. In her latest book, “Saved By Cake - Over 80 Ways to Bake Yourself Happy,” the author reveals what she has been feeling and what she was able to do to make herself feel a little bit better.
Her introduction to this most unusual cookbook opens with this revelation: “Medically speaking, there is no such thing as a nervous breakdown. Which is very annoying to discover when you’re right in the middle of one.”
She explains: “Mind you, I didn’t know I was having one until I was six months into it. It started in October 2009, when panic started rolling up from my gut and down from my head and pushing out from behind my eyes. I felt like I was dreaming, like I’d woken up in the middle of a horrible nightmare, only to discover that I’d been awake all along. Too much reality was rushing in through my eyes.”
Keyes was having a difficult time merely existing. She writes that “crowds terrified me, people zoomed at me, their words rained down on me like electric sparks, and my mouth wouldn’t work to produce the right response.”
She had been publicizing her previous book and she ascribed her malady to stress. The book promotion finished, she took a vacation in the tropics. That didn’t help. She felt uncomfortable doing the things that we might take for granted; reading, writing, sleeping, eating, breathing.
Keyes has been battling her depression for a long time. Over the years she has taken antidepressants. She still does. She has tried many kinds of therapy. She even checked into a psychiatric hospital. She was having suicidal thoughts. Nothing seemed to help.
Then one day she baked a birthday cake for a friend. She found baking was joyful and soothing. She says “I find it calming and rewarding.”
Now she cannot stop baking. She has just published this lovely cookbook. She offers her recipes with this disclaimer: “Baking may not be for you and if it isn’t, I’m sorry and I hope you find something that helps. I also need to tell you that baking hasn’t ‘cured’ me. But it gets me through.”
This charming book contains directions for baking buttermilk scones, rhubarb crumble, John’s sticky toffee pudding, chocolate cheesecake cupcakes, blokey Snickers cheesecake loaf, Brazilian stout cake, banana meringue pie, Armenian sugar cookies, sweet potato pie, and much more.
The book is deliciously illustrated. Her recipe notes are sweet treasures. Keyes must be feeling better. She has gotten back to writing fiction. Her novel “Mystery of Mercy Close” will be out in a couple of weeks.