Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
Eva Thorvald is abandoned at 2 months old by her mom Cynthia, who runs off to Australia with a man from work. Lucky for Eva, her dad Lars is absolutely smitten with her and excited to have a child. He wants to teach her all he knows about food: selecting the perfect tomato and eating guilty pleasure foods like State Fair corn dogs.
Poor Eva can’t seem to catch a break because her dad dies of a heart attack when she’s still a baby and she’s raised by her Uncle Jarl and Aunt Fiona who never tell her about her real parents.
The story is told in eight chapters, beginning with Lars briefly telling the story of his childhood, relationship with Cynthia, the birth of Eva, and life up until he passes away.
Eva follows in the next chapter, explaining a portion of her childhood, her interest in food and growing the hottest peppers in Minnesota under grow lights in her bedroom, and the story of how she got back at bullies on her bus.
Each chapter that follows is then told by someone that is connected to Eva in some way (including a cousin and her first boyfriend) and we learn from a distance the person she becomes as she grows up.
Her mom (Aunt Fiona) died when she was just fourteen and her dad (Uncle Jarl) can’t hold down a job for very long. She begins working in restaurant kitchens and people are impressed by her culinary skills and the simple but decadent dishes she prepares.
As an adult, high school drop-out Eva finds herself running an exclusive pop-up supper club that goes from $500/plate in the beginning to $10,000/plate within a few years. The waiting list is a mile long but there is one woman who is determined to wait patiently for her opportunity to meet the legendary young chef.
A story about an unlucky girl who grew up to make her own luck, Eva Thorvald will charm readers with her positive attitude and genuine nature. I enjoyed learning about Eva through the eyes of different characters; a cast who loved or loathed her.
The ending was a beautifully executed surprise, bringing together a group of people we read about over the course of the novel to find how they all connect.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an excellent book recommendation for readers who enjoy a coming of age story with alternating points of view, quirky characters, and most of all: food! It includes a few recipes throughout and some stunning food descriptions.