BOOK REVIEW: “Kitchens of the Great Midwest” by J Ryan Stradal

9781784291938 An unexpected treat . . . a book that grabbed me instantly due to its unique voice – a bemusing quirkiness combined with a poignant bittersweetness.

There are many things to recommend this book – its somewhat unorthodox narrative style which plays with the notions of who you think the main character is or isn’t, its ability to make you care deeply for things that you wouldn’t expect to (the tension generated out of a small-town summer fete bake-off competition is very impressive), its gallery of wonderfully rendered characters (some of whom you root for, others not), its observations on identity, inner lives, unrequited love, childhood, adulthood, the gap between the two and what makes us who we are.

The ingredients that make up this debut work are reminiscent of a highly imaginative cookbook, which perhaps is a very apposite comparison given the extraordinary love of food which is evident throughout this novel. Yes, this book is a sort of literary smorgasbord full of succulence and rapture, concocted by a very talented author-chef who doesn’t play by the rules. You are left feeling thoughtful, entertained and touched by the powerful observations of human vagaries . . . Read this and then pass it on to everyone you love . . .

Join us in the shop on Saturday 1st August where we will be celebrating the publication of this extraordinary novel – thanks to the kindness of publisher Quercus we will have the book a full week ahead of any other bookshop in the UK) There will be food made from recipes in the book, readings and the odd copy to give away to lucky customers…

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