Monday, September 21, 2015

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a series of short stories set in the Midwest all loosely connected to one main character and to food. I don’t normally care for this kind of narrative, but at least Kitchens of the Great Midwest moves forward chronologically instead of jumping around in time.

I found it slow starting but really enjoyed it once I got into it. Chapters are set in Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota. Sad things happen, and touching things, but there is joy as well. We see inside the heads of a variety of Midwesterners, all of whom have a deep connection to food. Some recipes are included, and the plot is very up to date with the latest foodie trends.

I was left wondering what happened to some of the characters we met in various chapters and heard little or nothing more about, but that’s a sign of a well written short story. I do wish the book had a character chart, because I’m sure I missed some of the connections in the final chapter (which brings many of the characters together).

The book serves as a sort of recipe itself – a recipe for the life of one child born in the Midwest to Midwesterners whose life is focused on food.

I recommend Kitchens of the Great Midwest most for foodies from the Midwest, but other lovers of quirky literary fiction should also give it a try.

I read an advance reader copy of Kitchens of the Great Midwest. It is available at the Galesburg Public Library in print and electronic format.

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