It’s hard to decide what galleys to grab at Book Expo America. I bring a little list of the stuff I’ve researched and am excited about, but I like to discover new books and authors too. However, when you walk by a signing line or galley grab area there’s not really enough time to learn much about the book in advance of picking up a copy. As a result, sometimes I end up picking up a galley because: 1. The cover is beautiful. 2. It’s about food. 3. It takes place in the Midwest, where I grew up.
I guess those three superficial reasons were good enough, because I loved Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal.
It’s the story of Eva Thorvald and the people in the inner and outer circles of her world. Eva is a bit of a food prodigy from a young age, and she has an exceptional pallet. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective and shares a story that allows us get to know her. It deals with family traditions, the pains of being a teenager, mother/daughter relationships, and the decisions we make that shape our lives. I don’t want to tell you much more about the plot because I went into it not knowing anything (the back cover of the galley reveals nothing about the story inside) and really enjoyed the experience of figuring out how the characters connected to each other, and how the direction of Eva’s life would evolve in relation to the character narrating each story.
It’s the bookish equivalent of a wonderful meal – the stories work together like courses, complimenting each other and introducing new flavors (characters). At the end you’ll feel satisfied and content.
I’ll stop speaking in food metaphors now. Bottom line: it’s a really fun novel, that will be especially enjoyed by people who enjoy cooking and food, and/or the Midwest. (But by no means is it exclusive to those interests.)
This is the second novel I’ve read this year that’s comprised of connected short stories. It’s nothing like the first one I read, The Shore, but it’s wonderful too, in a different way. I’m kind of hooked on them now – I want to read more! Anyone have any recommendations?
Disclosure: I received a copy of the book at Book Expo America.