Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal (July 2015)

I don't often laugh out loud reading books, but this one got me quite a few times. The first 20 pages or so are filled with hilarious lines that I couldn't help reading out loud to my boss. The rest of the book isn't as funny, but makes up for it in damn good writing. The story centers around Eva Thorvald, who possesses "a once in a lifetime palate." Only one part of the book actually follows Eva; the rest of the chapters are told from the (third person omniscient) perspectives of people whose lives she touched, some only briefly and some for a longer period of time, but all indelibly. It reminds me a bit of "The Bone Clocks" by David Mitchell, another book with a woman protagonist who offers redemption to a number of people, only to have some slap it away in anger. Then again, some of the people we follow simply happen to have her in their lives at a pivotal moment. Through their eyes, we see Eva's maturation and success as a one-of-a-kind celebrity chef, and eventually wind our way back to the mother who abandoned her just months after her birth. It's a fabulous book, all the more impressive for being a debut, and I encourage everyone to pick it up when it is published in late July.


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