Genre: Magical Realism

Friday, June 07, 2019

Don’t Read on An Empty Stomach: Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond

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I received this book for free from Simon Pulse in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Don’t Read on An Empty Stomach: Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung RichmondHungry Hearts by Caroline Tung Richmond, Elsie Chapman
Published by Simon Pulse on June 18th, 2019
Genres: Anthology, Contemporary, Magical Realism
Source: Simon Pulse
Buy on Amazon

From some of your favorite bestselling and critically acclaimed authors—including Sandhya Menon, Anna-Marie McLemore, and Rin Chupeco—comes a collection of interconnected short stories that explore the intersection of family, culture, and food in the lives of thirteen teens.

A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.

Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.

Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.

If you, like me, are a great lover of both food and books, this anthology will immediately appeal to you. There are a ton of anthologies published each year and sometimes it’s hard to keep track all of them but what makes this one worthy of being on your TBR is that it isn’t just a collection of stories. It’s a collection of stories that is intertwined. Main characters from individual stories make appearances in stories outside of their own, secondary character from individual stories will make appearances in stories outside of their own. It’s quite marvelous and I cannot imagine the amount of work the authors must have put in to make something as cohesive as this.

Hungry Hearts is set in the mystical Hungry Hearts Row. A place where magic and food meet to truly change the lives of people who both visit and live here. Over the course of thirteen different stories, we get to ‘taste’ different kinds of food, meet characters struggling with everything from grief to bravery and truly get a feel for how magical Hungry Hearts Row is. A warning though, don’t dive into this anthology on an empty stomach because nothing you eat could ever live up to the food found in this neighborhood. I would literally kill to have some of Lila’s magical pastries and a nice bowl of ash-e-reshte.

Like always, not all stories truly worked for me but I found that the interconnectedness made it much easier for me to still enjoy stories that I didn’t love. Here were my top three stories.

Side Work by Sara Farizan

After a DIU derails her future plans, Laleh is stuck working in her uncle’s Persian food restaurant to pay off the cost of the damages to her father’s car. She feels stifled by her parents’ disappointment in her and isn’t sure what’s next anymore. A chance encounter with the girl she never called back gives Laleh a new direction and soon she finds herself more invested in her future and the future of her uncle’s restaurant.

The Slender One
by Caroline Tung Richmond

I don’t know about you but to me, there is always something so cathartic about reading about a character who is struggling with their cultural identity and over the course of a story, makes peace with it?? Charlie Ma recently got a full scholarship to a fancy private school and is excited for a new start. A place where no one has met his weird grandma, no one remembers the scrawny kid he used to be. Over the course of this short story, Charlie ends up being tasked with helping a malicious ghost make their peace during the Hungry Ghost festival and while he is reluctant at first, he ends up embracing his skills and making a new, non-asshole friend!

Rain by Sangu Mandanna

Anna’s mother passed away several months ago and neither her nor her father really know how to deal with it. When her maternal aunt invites her and her father for a visit to Hungry Hearts Row, they take up the chance to get away from everything. Anna and her father slowly reconnect over some magical Pan Dulce and attempting to recreate her mom’s Coorg Pandhi Curry and figure out their new path forward.


4 Hot Espressos

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