Kitchens of the Great Midwest, about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country's most coveted dinner reservation, is the summer's most hotly-anticipated debut.
When Lars Thorvald's wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine - and a dashing sommelier - he's left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He's determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter - starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva's journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that's a testament to her spirit and resilience.
Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal's startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life - its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.
©2015 J. Ryan Stradal (P)2015 Penguin Audio
"Ryan and Stuhlbarg shine as they use subtle pacing and tone to portray the unique personalities of each character, adding just the slightest hints of a Midwestern accent to give authenticity and differentiation. Stradal's skillful writing delivered by accomplished narrators offers listeners a debut performance to savor." (AudioFile)
Greedy, voracious reader since age five. After a number of eye injuries & surgeries, reading is hard. So now, I listen.
I wanted to love this whole book as much as I loved the beginning chapters. But not all of the chapters, each one being a microcosm of the heroine's life at some stage, were interesting. I still give it 3 stars. The beginning, with poor smelly lutefisk king Lars, whose social awkwardness encourages a love affair with food, was inspired and hilarious. Lars is excited to plan meals for his baby Eva and introduce her to his favorites, like pork shoulder, from Day One. The baby's pediatrician has to dash his hopes. Because, MILK!
Although Eva is orphaned as a baby, she grows up with her father's love of good food and his talent in the kitchen (not the only bit of magical realism in the book), and she goes on to become a famous chef. Chapters include mouth-watering descriptions of dishes and meals served, for lovers of food porn, and also some recipes. I just wish the editor had leaned a little harder on this new author; I think this book could have been fantastic. But it just misses.
I found this a very interesting story. Kept my attention. Found I needed to listen carefully as the characters from each chapters intertwined and where some meet in the last chapter of the book. The narration was very good and the main character Eva was strong and I found you became vested in the characters. All in all, I really enjoyed.
It was a great experience. The story is quite clever, and all of its parts fit together so satisfyingly. The Story went a little over the top, at times, but in this scheme, it was somehow ok. Having spent some time in the Twin Cities, and having grown up in Wisconsin, I loved the regional familiarity. I loved the narrators dialect, and I especially love bars.
Very long and interesting lead-up to a mediocre finale. Even though the author tied some things together, they were only teases with no real purpose.
Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest earns a solid three stars from me as an entertaining, light, and delightful story. Stradal used a varied cast of characters to tell Eva Thorvald's story in discrete chapters, and while this is an interesting concept that I've enjoyed before (Olive Kitteridge), it's also got its drawbacks. I spent time at the beginning of each chapter orienting myself as to where I was in Eva's life, who the new characters were, and how they figured into Eva's life. This interrupted the flow of the story just a bit too much for me, and I felt like I was left hanging at the abrupt end of each chapter. Each chapter scenario certainly was intriguing enough for me to wonder what had happened in those situations that weren't entirely resolved. The ending felt rushed and also left me with questions, but the excellent food descriptions did help make this a better than average book.
This book was recommended to me by my daughter who said of the 150+ books she had read this year, this was her favorite. No better recommendation than that! I would recommend this to anyone who loves to cook (or eat great food), and likes to read fiction -- with a little bit of edge to them.
I think Lars because he is just adorable, sweet, loving and a great Dad. I love Eva too -- independent spirit, devoted, born to do what she's doing and loving it.
I loved the performances. Very pleasant throughout (some voices can get annoying after about 6 hours) -- I missed them so much after the book was done, I listened to it again!
Spicy, flavorful, unique, delectable story
I was very confused about the Pat's detailed story and how it all worked in. While I enjoyed that part, it was a little confusing how it was related to Eva. If I had been distracted during the moment of interaction, I would have missed it totally!
This book is so much better than I can possibly describe. It is simply the perfect combination of people, timing, cooking, nostalgia ,life experience, and humor . The book ended at the perfect place but I could have happily listened to more chapters just because it was so well written and narrated.
This novel, a set of stories by characters who tangentially relate to each other, kept me entertained but not moved. I listened to the book on audible.com, and that enhanced the experience for me. The character at the hub of each story is Eva Thorvald, whom I found a little too perfect. Gorgeous, talented, successful...even so I liked her. I appreciate that the author didn't tie each story up neatly, leaving readers to connect the loose ends. Forays into sophisticated food and wine inspired me as I ate my mac n cheese 😉
In its descriptions of the protagonist's exceptional palate, this book reminded me of Delicious! by Ruth Reichl. I would r
Something was missing in this book, which is really a disconnected series of short stories "starring" Eva Torgesson. Although she is the central character, I never felt any emotional connection to her. She became more distant, rather than more deeply developed, with each chapter/ story. The narrators were only ok. Overall, very dissappointing.
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