Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

All of my favorite things - smart characters, descriptions of exotic dishes, recipes, menus - come together in Kitchens of the Great Midwest.  Eva, the central character, is born in the first chapter and ages rapidly in subsequent chapters where she sometimes plays only a minor role.  Eva has a talent for food - knowing ingredients, putting together a meal, and even using food as a weapon.  I loved watching her grow into an enigmatic chef so popular people would pay thousands of dollars and endure years on a waiting list just to eat at one of her mysterious pop-up dinners.  The chapter titled "Bars" is all about those delicious 9 x 13 pan-baked creations and was the tastiest of the whole book for me.  

Friday, September 04, 2015

The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida

This slim little novel is so fast paced, I almost finished it in a day.  Told entirely in second person, Vida's narrator has her laptop and identification stolen while checking in to a hotel in Morocco.  After some wrangling with the local police, she accepts another woman's ID and thus begins a series of events, new names and personalities so entangled it will leave "you" wondering who "you" are.  The unusual title of the book comes from a Rumi poem.  I listened to an interview with Vendetta Vida, who is Dave Eggers' wife, and she said the book was prompted by a similar experience that she had with a stolen laptop that contained an unfinished manuscript.  She also said second person narration was the only way she could tell this story.  I was hooked from the opening scene and laughed aloud at the last line.  Highly recommend!