What happens when a fifteen-year old girl awakens one morning to find an abandoned baby in her bureau drawer and then becomes his surrogate mother? "Bouillabaisse" takes readers on a heart-rending journey with Gail Kenealy and her large family; a highly-spirited clan that's abruptly thrust into fostering five of Gail's orphaned cousins - including the newborn and his special needs sister.
It is 1967 and Gail has the happy, carefree, small-town family life that many kids her age enjoy - lots of friends, a tight-knit family, and the innocence of adolescence are bright rays of light for her. But life has a certain unpredictability that has a way of striking at the most joyful of moments. For Gail, that unpredictability will change everything.
When Gail's Aunt Cate dies shortly after giving birth to her fifth child, Gail's mother, Mary Claire, must make good on a promise to raise the children and keep them safe from their abusive father, Francis. With five children of their own, Mary Claire and her husband, Joe, are forced into a dire situation that will change their family forever.
The once peaceful Kenealy household is transformed into a den of chaos and frustration. And as the newfound stress marches toward the breaking point for the family, Gail is forced to hastily trader her adolescent life for the responsibilities of motherhood and the challenges of adulthood. Particularly after her mother falls into a dark alcoholic depression, and her father is largely absent while trying to make enough money to keep everyone under one roof.
Gail and the oldest cousin, Frankie, have different ways of coping but manage to form a unified front when it comes to becoming the de facto parents in the house. Frankie, who is deeply grateful to have a roof over his head and his siblings together, finds much for which to be grateful. For Gail, however, the harsh setbacks cause her to angrily question everything around her - especially the "mysteries" of God whom she perceives to be largely absent in their lives due to the setbacks and disruption of her innocent life. Frankie's example, though, eventually creates a surprising personal empowerment for Gail as she draws on his example of forbearance, uncommon personal strength, and tenacity.
Both of them are aided by the enlightenment that seeps in after befriending a pair of well-meaning nuns, one of whom is a gourmet chef capable of firing up a passion for cooking among the children - something Frankie takes up with great success. Another surprising source of inspiration arises from Frankie's hero, superstar football coach Vince Lombardi. For this family of bewildered and bereaved children, football not only becomes a means to work out their pain, but competitive cooking brings a sense of communion where even the stew known as bouillabaisse becomes a salve for their wounded souls. Through this heartwarming story, readers will likewise commune at the table with this clan of misfits as they learn lessons of survival, forgiveness, love and redemption.
"Bouillabaisse" is a timeless story when it comes to facing life's immense and unexpected burdens, and of finding hope and triumph in the love of family.
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