Kitchens of the Great MIdwest is J. Ryan Stradal’s debut novel. He has had his short stories published, so he’s not a newbie to writing. It is interesting in concept. It’s the story of Eva Thorvold’s life, from birth to her mid twenties by which time she’s become an acclaimed chef. Each of the eight chapters (seven of which are either named after a specific food or type of food) deals with a specific age, so it’s not a rambling biography…no “when I was six I did this and when I was seven I did this.Each chapter is a discreet unit. “While I found this method interesting, I kept wondering until the end how Stradal would wrap the characters together, thus at times I felt that I was reading unrelated short stories. I also wondered throughout the book how Eva became interested in cooking. I presume you’ll see why I ask this question after you’ve read the book.
Readers are going to adore Eva. She’s quirky, unpretentious, endearing. Similarly most of the characters are going to be reader favorites, except of course those foodies with attitude, who you love to hate. The story moves along nicely and the stories range from cute to serious. Because each chapter is discreet, situations are not necessarily wrapped up in a nice neat bow, letting the reader put his/her own stamp on the event. I liked that.
There are even recipes in the book, although I’d never try any of them.
I’ll summarize by saying this is a totally enjoyable book. It’s subject matter is different than your run-of-the-mill book. The characters are the kind I like: quirky, rebellious at times, forceful at other times, sure of themselves. It’s a fast read, not ‘literary’ but nicely written. I would not hesitate to recommend this to any reader..