Fall Fiction Favorites, Part 2


Though it is about a month late, as promised, the second half of my Fall Fiction Favorites series has arrived. I always tell myself I’m going to post more regularly…and, as evidenced by the fact that it’s been nearly a month, I haven’t yet been successful. Here’s hoping that 2017 is actually the year of the bi-weekly posts. Without further ado, lets get into it.

The first book I’m reviewing today wasn’t technically released in the fall—and by technically, I mean it was released in July 2015—but we’re counting it as a Fall Fiction Favorite because that’s when I happened to read it.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal, is a culinary adventure through the life of Eva Thorvald. Born in Minnesota to a sommelier and a chef, Eva’s father Lars is determined that she grows up with the same reverence for food that he has always enjoyed. In the book’s hilarious first half, Lars writes journal entries with “gourmet baby food recipes” for Eva and questions his doctor’s assertion that infants should not be eating Bolognese. When [semi-SPOILER ALERT] Lars passes away suddenly when Eva is a toddler, she moves in with Lars’ brother and his wife, two hardworking and well-meaning, but entirely unsophisticated, people. Her adoptive parents are unable to relate to—or satisfy—her seasoned palate.

Charming as the cozy Minnesota setting, and enticing as the rich description of even richer food may be, “life stories” often hit lulls and become repetitive. Stradal avoided this trap by telling the story not just from Eva’s point-of-view, but multiple others, many of whom did not have an immediately discernible connection to Eva; trying to figure out how the characters’ stories allowed the book to maintain a page-turning pace.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest was funny—it had me laughing out loud at certain parts—clever, and well written, three of the most important elements for me when it comes to Fiction read. It wasn’t “literary,” but it wasn’t trying to be. This is the type of book I’d be comfortable recommending to anyone—from my friends to my grandmother—without worrying about whether or not they’d love it. If you’re looking for a charming holiday read, cozy up by the fire, grab a mug of a hot chocolate [preferably of the Vahlrona chocolate variety, topped with organic whipped cream from grass-fed cows, as a nod to the Thorvald palate], and kick back with Kitchens.

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