May 14, 2010

Book Review: Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar

Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love 
by Lara Vapnyar
9780307279880, Knopf (Random House), $14

This post was originally published here in July 2008. It has been edited from its original version.

I picked up this book expecting it to be good, and was thrilled when I wasn't disappointed. Do you ever have those hunches? When you look at a book, totally judging it by its cover, and think, yeah, I bet I'm really going to enjoy reading that. This was one of those books for me. 

Let me also tell you that I'm a rather recent, but passionate, short story/essay lover. Who knew? Seriously, this is an adult-life discovery. I think we should start encouraging more children/teens/young adults to read short stories. Though I wasn't this way as a child, so many children get overwhelmed by the size of a large book, tiny words, pages and pages of text. If they knew they only had to sit down and read one short story, they may sit and read two in one sitting. Maybe soon they would be reading a whole book, just for that sense of accomplishment that comes when you've turned the final page.

Lara Vapnyar writes about food as if it's there on the page in front of you for you to taste. She writes about love the same way. The fact that she is able to combine the mostly inner monologue of people's musings on life and love, while making your stomach growl for the hot borscht with sour cream someone in the story has just made, is a brilliant way of inviting other senses to partake in this primarily visual experience. 

Her stories reflect the food in them: if the food is unsatisfying in the tale, you may be left with a longing sensation for a little more of the tale to come along. If the food has been completely filling and satisfying, the story wraps up with a warm, contented closure. At the end, just as with a fabulous meal, I was sad it was over, and simultaneously relieved the self control was taken out of my hands or else I would have gorged myself a little too much.

If you like her writing, or short stories/essays in general, you should also check out her other works:

There Are Jews in My Houseby Lara Vapnyar
9781400033898, Knopf (Random House), $12

Memoirs of a Muse by Lara Vapnyar
9781400077007, Vintage (Random House), $13.95

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