Monday, 13 May 2013

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots - Jessica Soffer

This is a story about accepting the people we love—the people we have to love and the people we choose to love, the families we’re given and the families we make. It’s the story of two women adrift in New York, a widow and an almost-orphan, each searching for someone she’s lost. It’s the story of how, even in moments of grief and darkness, there are joys waiting nearby.

Lorca spends her life poring over cookbooks, making croissants and chocolat chaud, seeking out rare ingredients, all to earn the love of her distracted chef of a mother, who is now packing her off to boarding school. In one last effort to prove herself indispensable, Lorca resolves to track down the recipe for her mother’s ideal meal, an obscure Middle Eastern dish called masgouf.

Victoria, grappling with her husband’s death, has been dreaming of the daughter they gave up forty years ago. An Iraqi Jewish immigrant who used to run a restaurant, she starts teaching cooking lessons; Lorca signs up.

Together, they make cardamom pistachio cookies, baklava, kubba with squash. They also begin to suspect they are connected by more than their love of food. Soon, though, they must reckon with the past, the future, and the truth—whatever it might be. Bukra fil mish mish, the Arabic saying goes. Tomorrow, apricots may bloom.

I know what you're thinking. This is a book about feelings and growing and worst of all, food. This book is seemingly not at all up my alley. But when I got offered to review it, I thought that I needed to give it a good shot and as it was written by an interesting new debut author, Jessica Soffer, and from a new and interesting perspective, I decided to give it a shot and I'm very happy I did.

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots follows two very different heroines. Lorca, our teenage girl, spends all her time trying to win her mother's seemingly impossible love while struggling in school and with her own self image. She has a crush on the cute boy who works on the bookstore down the street and imagines going on adventures with him. She's a very intense character, at once strange and new but relatable. 

One of the strongest details about Lorca is that she's a self harmer. There are intense, painstakingly written passages about her thought process, about what it means to her. It actually gets difficult to read at times. This was unexpected to me and I found it a welcome part of her character, giving more complications to Lorca and making her a more rounded character. It gave her another issue to attempt to overcome, tied into her feelings with her mother and added quite a bit to the plot.

Our other heroine is Victoria, an aging Iraqi woman who emigrated with her husband years and years before and has just recently lost him. Now, alone for the first time in decades, she has to deal with what her life has become and who she is without him. The panic, the sudden emptiness and the realization that she had alienated so much in her life that now she feels truly alone overcome her. This is a fear that resonates with everyone and is completely gripping, transforming the character and adding to the story.

Watching these two broken women find each other is both heartwarming and slightly worrying, since you spend most of the book hoping everything works out for them. I was honestly surprised by how the book finally ended. I was not expecting some of the final twists and turns of the plot and was   shocked with some things and delighted with others. I would not have thought this book unpredictable but there you have it.

This is a book about dealing with present and working for the future. It isn't particularly happy but it has small moments of joy and copious amounts of hope. A great debut from Ms. Soffer and definitely one to pick up.

Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the review copy!

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