I finished The Cookbook Collector and am stuck with essentially the same view I've had all along. I don't get it.
On the plus side, Ms. Goodman wrapped up the many story lines in hopeful ways (ala commercial fiction?) The nice girl gets married, the traumatized girl gets a new goal in life. The side characters end up with enough money, the girl of their dreams, etc. It's all very tidy, which makes you feel good inside though you may question the feasibility of such ubiquitous tidiness.
On the negative side, there were so many story lines. It could have been at least 2 books, probably 3. I would have loved to see Jess investigate the cookbook collector's life further, as that story line alone was rich and deep. Instead it was merely touched on, while details of dot.com IPOs and plummets were extensive.
I GET the idea of an ensemble cast, and of telling multiple tales at once. The stories were woven together reasonably well, but the overall impact for me was diluted. It didn't have enough of what I wanted. Readers feel misled when the title implies focus on one thing, and the book actually focuses on another. They/we look at a title like this and expect a cozy read involving cookbooks. That's what they hope for. That's not what they get.
I learned a lot from this book! It gives me hope, and focus. It helps me see how far I should go in providing back story about side characters. It warns me to keep the central focus on my heroine, and let the side stories support and feed it rather than compete with it. And it encourages me to include the types of writing that I love to do, such as she employed in chapter 22.