By Kayla Plutzer, Staff Writer
From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors—including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco—comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.
A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could grant him the money to save his mother’s life.
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, and baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic, food, and love are sometimes one and the same.
Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, or belonging and home. (Synopsis taken from goodreads.com.)
Story anthologies are usually a genre I stay far away from; I don’t like stories that are short and don’t all connect because it makes me feel like I don’t get enough out of the story, but this anthology was different. The stories were all interconnected, telling you about different cultures and their connections to food. But there is one thing that remains constant. There is a girl named Lila who shows up in someway in every story, whether it be to give potentially magical baked goods to someone, or a reference to someone else delivering goods from her family’s bakery. Each story takes you into a different culture, explaining their connection to food. Food has always been an important part of Jewish culture, and one of the stories even takes place in a Jewish deli, which reminded me of the famous delis on the Lower East Side.
Food is extremely important to many different cultures, and it was so interesting to see how different cultures relate to food. Furthermore, getting to learn about different foods that are staples in different cultures. While each chapter identified a different culture, the book pointed out a commonality between us: we all find comfort in our different foods. We all come together to eat when things are tough.
The book opens with an introduction to Lila within a story about a young woman who has just lost her mother. Anna and her father are working together to create Coorg pandhi curry, which is a recipe that connects Anna to her mother’s Indian heritage. Anna is struggling to connect and remember her mother who had passed away a few months before the story begins, leaving her and her father feeling like their relationship has changed drastically and the only thing that connected them was her mother. In order to improve their relationship, they work together to recreate her mother’s favorite recipe.The book makes a full circle and ends with Lila meeting Anna and her family, which I thought was a really nice ending.
I really enjoyed learning about different cultures and their connections to food, but I also enjoyed the introduction and continuation of different characters throughout the book. I didn’t feel like I was reading an anthology, but more like a book that was written by many different authors, but still part of one bigger story. The characters have heart and I would definitely recommend this book!
Photo: Cover of the Book