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The Five-Year Plan
Christopher Scott Brooks. Christopher Scott Brooks, $36 (354p) ISBN 978-1-73524-150-0
A wayward yet optimistic Boston doctor brings the tastes of the world to his conservative Ohio hometown in Brooks’s uplifting if uneven debut. Middle-aged and childless, wealthy Dr. James Langley is ambivalent over his irascible wife’s sudden death. In fact, his newfound freedom spurs him toward making a big change. A wine connoisseur, he returns to his depressed hometown of Zanesville to care for his cranky mother, Ruth. He then puts the money from his wife’s life insurance payout into a passion project: a fancy restaurant he’s convinced will fail. It’s called the Five-Year Plan, because Jim vows to close it after precisely five years, expecting to have few if any customers. The business starts off slow, until he features recipes culled from international expeditions with Doctors Without Borders, such as mole and pho, and the locals slowly embrace the exotic food and Jim’s stories. (As a friend comments, “You’ve awakened their palettes and their possibilities.”) While Jim’s success feels a bit convenient to the plot, Brooks builds in plenty of engaging backstories, such as Jim’s two-week assignment in Mexico to aid earthquake victims. It’s a little clunky, but overall readers will root for the enterprising doctor. (Self-published)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 01/07/2022

Release date 08/01/2020

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