June 7, 2012

Men, Money and Chocolate - the Holy Trinity Redefined

I'm rather impressed with Menna Van Praag's Men, Money and Chocolate. The author takes complicated personal issues and elegantly turns them on their head making you wonder how you missed such obvious truths. Deceptively simple, perhaps even seeming like chick-lit given the title and cover art, this book is in actuality a godsend to anyone who feels like they need a partner, wealth or comfort food (chocolate, anyone?) to feel better about themselves. It's not preachy and high-handed at all, but does drive home the message that you are all you need to be happy. The protagonist, Maya, finds her way to the light in the most captivating manner and I know that in some small way, we can all relate to her insecurities, which is what makes this book so special. You feel lighter, somehow, and more hopeful once you've read it. It's also filled with chocolate and charming men, in case that helps. 
Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:

EVERY DAY MAYA LOST AN ONGOING BATTLE to resist breakfasting on coffee and chocolate croissants. Sometimes she managed to hold back for a few hours, but rarely made it to ten o’clock without devouring a couple of croissants in a guilt-laden frenzy. The rest of the day was an inevitable downslide into oblivion. All the time the chocolate treats tempted her, and Maya wondered desperately why she couldn't win a battle of wills with a slice of fudge cake, just once.
She glanced at a plate of chocolate cupcakes on the counter and absolutely vowed that today she wouldn't eat anything sweet. She looked down at the unopened self-help book in her hands, the title promising to cure Maya of her addiction to unavailable men, and caught the sad sight of her cake-rounded belly under her apron. Maya turned a page, trying to focus, but her heart wasn't in it.
Some days Maya feared she’d finally have to let go of her dreams. For years she’d been trying to finish a novel, scribbling sentences between baking cakes, serving customers and worrying about her accounts. She’d tried, hoped and wished to find love but had spent the last decade either serially single or recovering from failed love affairs. And every day she tried to impose a strict diet on herself, calling on ever-diminishing reserves of willpower, and every day she succumbed to temptation.
Maya’s world was shaped by her thoughts about men, money and chocolate; and these thoughts were almost always self-critical and depressing. In the pursuit of love, success and weight loss she’d failed to find anything like joy, but she continued to try.
It rarely occurred to Maya that perhaps she might be mistaken, that in her obsessive focus on these particular goals, she may be missing something.
Sometimes Maya sensed some special secret to happiness that lay just beyond her reach. For, in rare moments, she would be surprised by a sensation of childhood joy that crept up when her head hovered over a cake bowl and she bent down to sniff the sugar, or caught the sight of sunlight through golden leaves. Without knowing why or how, the memory of something she’d once known would touch her and suddenly she would smile, seeing a whole bright and brilliant world opening up before her. And for one eternal moment, Maya would be flooded with a feeling of warmth and peace. But in the next second it was gone.
So, while Maya believed, deep in her heart, that she could be truly happy, she had absolutely no idea how.

Excerpted from Men, Money and Chocolate, by Menna Van Praag. Copyright © 2010 (Hay House)

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