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

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You don’t have to like broccoli to fall in love with Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by award-winning author Lara Vapnyar.  These half dozen stories are uniquely connected to make a complete whole which will move and inspire you.  This book will bring joy into your own life because, from its pages, you will find yourself not taking the challenges of life so seriously; and instead, you'll discover new appreciation for, and reap the enjoyment from, the things that really matter.

Each of the six tales is unique and each stands alone. But they all share the commonality of the characters’ love for food, and in particular, that connection of food to home, love, and well-being.

Vapnyar peoples five of her six stories with Russian emigrants. She brings home to all of us, by touching our hearts, their perils, fears, joys, and loneliness of a life in a new place. Mid-book, Vapnyar takes us back in time a couple of decades, to an up-close-and-personal account of how impoverished life was in the Soviet Bloc through the eyes of a young woman.

Each of Vapnyar's characters comes from what must have been her own observations, having emigrated from Russia, and they are deeply drawn combining joy and sorrow, kindness and hate, hope and despair.

Lara Vapnyar skillfully writes with clever style. Her bright humor throughout most of the stories will have you laughing out loud. Equally, you will find yourself in tears when you read, in “Puffed Rice and Meatballs,” about life behind the Iron Curtain for two young girls and how they are physically assaulted over what most of us take for granted – breakfast cereal.

I was originally attracted to the title of this book but had no idea what it would be about when I ordered it (I thought it might be poetry). I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was a collection of short stories. I will definitely include Lara Vapnyar on my favorite authors list, as I am sure you will too.

If you are looking for fiction that will take you to other places, and other times, this book will be for you. If you want good well-written short stories that you can enjoy on your lunch or for a few relaxing minutes in the evening, you will find Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love a satisfying read.

Most importantly, if you are the kind of person who is always looking to improve your insight and outlook, Lara Vapnyar will make a difference. Through her lifelike deeply sketched characters – which you will feel that you actually come to know – you will find new appreciation in the things, which are not so little but which we can tend to take for granted – like food, family, and home.

If you find yourself getting hungry during reading this book, if your mouth begins to water for borscht, Russian meatballs, or Olivier salad, not to worry. Vapnyar includes her own recipes for these — and other — culinary delights in the back of the book in her “Roundup of Recipes.” She flavors each recipe entry with a little about her own relationship to that particular dish; even if you don’t read it for the recipe content, you’ll enjoy her humor here in this section – it makes for a perfect finish!

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About Mary Curtis

  • Fun!

  • I love broccoli…sounds like an interesting book.

  • Thanks Nancy!

  • Christine, thanks. I love broccoli too and that’s what originally attracted me to the book.