Review: Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food and Love

Title: Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food and Love
Editors: Caroline Tung Richmond & Elsie Chapman
Authors: Sangu Mandanna, Sandhya Menon, Rin Chupeco, Adi Alsaid, Caroline Tung Richmond, Jay Coles, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karuna Riazi, Phoebe North, S.K. Ali, Sara Farizan, and Anna-Marie Mclemore
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 352
Availability: On shelves now
Review copy: Digital ARC via Netgalley

Summary: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.

Review: If you aren’t hungry when you start reading this book, you likely will be by the time you finish. The food descriptions are enchanting and the connections people make through cooking and sharing food will make readers want to share in the magic. And yes, there is definitely magic here.

Story collections can be rather hit or miss for me. Often, there are a few gems and the other stories seem like filler. That didn’t happen here. Even more surprising, though the stories share the same theme of food, they are also set in the same place and have stories that overlap and share some of the same characters. That must have taken great attention to detail and a lot of communication between the authors and editors. Once or twice the connections seemed a little forced, but in most instances they just felt well-woven. It made me appreciate the craft and want to know how the whole thing was orchestrated.

Above all, these stories are about relationships and how food is one way that we relate to one another. Food can heal or be a bridge when people have fallen away from each other. It can be a temptation or even be used as a weapon. The pursuit of food can also be an adventure. And of course, food can also show love and provide hope.

There are a few stories included where food brings punishment, revenge, or death and that was a surprise. Those stories definitely stand out from the others and are some of the most memorable tales. These are balanced out with lighter and sometimes even dreamy tales.

Recommendation: Get it soon – especially if you’re interested in food. This is a unique collection that might even inspire some cooking.

Interview with co-editor Caroline Tung Richmond