by J. Ryan Stradal
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2015
Motivation for reading: After an especially persuasive negative review, I vowed never to read this book. But Care loved it... and because she is so persistent and has such awesome taste in books, I promised her I'd at least give it a try.
Source: ebook, purchased as a kindle daily deal
When Lars Thorvald's wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine--and a dashing sommelier--he's left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He's determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter--starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva's journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that's a testament to her spirit and resilience.
Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal's startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life--its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.
Lars Thorvald loved two women. That was it, he though in passing while he sat on the cold concrete steps of his apartment building. Perhaps he would've loved more than two, but it just didn't seem like things were going to work out like that.My thoughts:
What a pleasant surprise! I didn't expect to like this book, but the first pages grabbed me (they practically turned themselves) and before I knew it, I'd read the first chapter.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest is primarily a novel about Eva, yet she is not always front and center. Many chapters focus on other characters as they move in and out of her life. In some, Eva makes only a cameo appearance.
The chapters don't necessarily flow one into the next and, at times, I wondered if this could actually be a collection of connected stores. Taken together, they paint a portrait of Eva's life... an aspect reminded me of Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.
Food, of course, is a key component throughout. One particular dish is central to each chapter and recipes are included. The ending left this reader completely satisfied. Overall, a very enjoyable book. Thanks for the push, Care!