Told from three different alternating points of view, this novel, which is set in New York City, is a celebration of ethnic food; taste, texture and aroma, and family bonds.
Lorca is a teenage girl living with her emotionally detached restaurant owning mother. She constantly strives to gain her mother’s attention and approval by perfecting her culinary skills. In her search for the recipe for what she believes is her mother’s favourite and most memorable meal, she meets the recently widowed Victoria. Victoria once ran the restaurant in which Lorca’s mother ate the most delicious Masgouf.
After a clumsy start, the style improves greatly and the reader starts to warm to Lorca as she tries to come to terms with her emotions and her compulsion to self-harm. The bond she forges with Victoria as she learns to cook Iraqi dishes, and who she hopes might be her grandmother, is sensitively and convincingly handled. The chapters from Victoria’s point of view are equally compelling; she is a Jewish refugee, an immigrant who found it difficult to adjust to her new homeland and took comfort in cooking. There is a tragic secret in her past, which makes for a satisfying ending to the intertwined tales of the two women.
This is an easy and absorbing read that deals in issues dear to most of us; loneliness, loss, love and the comfort we can gain from cooking and creating recipes. Plenty to discuss in a group or to mull over in private.