In Cover the Butter, lead character Kate Cadogan can’t seem to please her mother, no matter what she does. Throughout her life, Kate is swept through a rollercoaster of emotions as Biddy, her mother, constantly criticizes her while following it up with a sweet statement. Just enough to keep Kate dangling. Kate’s friends keep telling her to stand up to her mother and free herself from her maternal snare, but that isn’t what Kate knows—or who she is, for that matter.We meet Kate in 1965 when she’s 14-years-old and she and Biddy are shopping for underwear. Kate wants a trainer bra like the ones her classmates wear, but Biddy insists she gets a corset and a proper brassiere. It doesn’t fit her properly, but Kate wears it anyway. Biddy controls the rest of Kate’s life that way. But don’t worry, Kate not only has her loyal childhood friends Moira and Ingrid, she’s also got her paternal grandparents who live in Wales and her aunt who lives in Ireland. Their love and support keep her going. Her father, on the other hand, is spineless and pretty much useless (obviously, since he’s married to someone like Biddy).
Kate knows her talents lie in baking and cooking, and although Biddy and the man she eventually marries tell her she’s insane for even considering it, Kate hangs on to her dream and the hope that her life can still be happy.
Satisfying and empowering, this book has characters that you care about and ones that you hate. In the end, it leaves you sated, as if you had a slice of one of Kate’s special cakes.
Kate is a very sympathetic character. Despite how weak she appears on the outside, you know she’s got strength within. Because Kabak narrates the novel from her point of view, you are part of Kate’s innermost thoughts and you know that she isn’t completely resigned to her lot. There’s a fighter inside her somewhere, she just has to overcome the biggest hurdle in her life—her mother.Where the story takes place
The story is set in the United Kingdom. It begins in Kate’s hometown of Dorton, moves to Wales where her grandparents live, Cardiff where she goes to college, Ireland where her aunt and uncle live, and Provence, where her best friend eventually settles down. As you visit these places with Kate, what stands out is how she relates each place with the people who live there and how she feels for each one.The Letdowns
Though Kate doesn’t sound like a pathetic martyr, you may find yourself wishing that she stood up for herself sooner. Yes, the story is about how it’s never too late to follow your dreams, but towards the end, you may begin to feel frustrated by how infuriating Biddy is (although this can be a good thing because Kabak is able to create characters that evoke strong feelings in her readers). You may also find yourself starting to wonder when Kate is ever going to catch a break, because it can be quite tiring having to go through the emotional turmoil Biddy puts her through.
Bookshelf Meter: 4 stars
1 star – Don’t even bother.
2 stars – Since there’s nothing else to read…
3 stars – Worth a borrowing from a friend, but not buying your own
4 stars – Deserves a spot on your nightstand.
5 stars – Grab this book now and forget the one you’re reading!
Olivia Yao has been writing ever since she can remember. She has written for health, teen, parenting, and children's magazines. Her latest endeavor is being a mom to her three-year-old daughter—her toughest assignment yet. Swap stories with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.