Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book Review: "Kitchens of Great Midwest" by J. Ryan Stradal

"Kitchens of the Great Midwest" by J. Ryan Stradal
First published in 2015
310 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

This book has a really beautiful cover that might give the impression that it's totally lighthearted and charming and full of yummy recipes -- which is sorta is, but with laugh-out-loud humor, some poignant moments and plenty of f-bombs thrown in.

 "Kitchens" was one of the best books I've read this year. I'm STILL wavering between 4.5 and 5 stars; I'm tempted to give it a full 5 but I kinda feel like it could've used just a little something more -- but what, I don't know. Overall the story is pretty simple and pared-down; maybe I just wanted more book!

The novel's main character is Eva Thorvald, a spunky, unusually tall, hot pepper-obsessed, vegan sorbet-loving child who overcomes a lot of unfortunate circumstances to grow into a mature, admirable, talented chef. Eva herself is pretty awesome, but it's the book's composition that sets it apart.

The book only has eight (long) chapters -- each named after a food that's the centerpiece of that particular story ("Venison Meatballs," "Chocolate Habanero," etc.). Only one chapter is told from Eva's perspective; the rest are narrated by people around her, from relatives to passing acquaintances, so we watch Eva grow and change through other characters' eyes. This method of storytelling was unique and satisfying; by the end we've found out the fates of all our assistant characters, but somehow, despite not being the direct focus of most of the book, Eva is the glowing star.

"Kitchens of the Great Midwest" is more about the people in the kitchens than about food. It's not really a book that'll make you drool reading descriptions of culinary delights (except maybe the peanut butter bars). It's about way more than food, and it was a fast, entertaining, fun and unique read. I loved it!

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