June 8, 2019

Review: Hungry Hearts

Hungry Hearts by various authors (edited by Caroline Tung Richmond and Elsie Chapman)
Grade: B-
Release date: June 18, 2019
An e-galley was provided by Simon & Schuster via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: When I first heard about this book, I didn't know just how interconnected all the stories would be, and so, when I realized that, I was nervous. But it worked really well! It made each story feel longer, which is good because usually stories in anthologies feel under-developed. Also this must've taken so much cooperation from all of the authors, and I commend them for that. Now to talk about each story individually.

Rain by Sangu Mandanna - 3.5/5 stars
Good intro to the anthology. Really works with themes of healing and moving on but not necessarily getting over something. A little simple, though.

Kings and Queens by Elsie Chapman - 4/5 stars
A darker story but still deeply interesting. Love the contrast of the foods.

The Grand Ishq Adventure by Sandhya Menon - 5/5 stars
Sandhya writes magic. I wanted just a little bit more food though, but I loved the concept of trying different restaurants. This one has had the most involvement with the rest of the neighborhood so far.

Sugar and Spite by Rin Chupeco - 2.5/5 stars
Enjoyed the heart of the story, but really couldn't stand the second-person narration. There's always that one story in an anthology that has to be second-person, and it never works, imo.

Moments to Return by Adi Alsaid - 3/5 stars
Good food involvement, but it felt weird to have the narrator withholding information from readers (and not in an unreliable narrator way). I've also never really cared for Adi's writing style.

The Slender One by Caroline Tung Richmond - 4/5 stars
Charlie and Andie were great characters. I liked the cultural tie-ins, and how food became more important as the story went on, especially since I was skeptical at first about if food was even going to be a big part of this story.

Gimme Some Sugar by Jay Coles - 5/5 stars
You can feel the love for food in this story, and it's a good length with a plot that wraps up nicely. A reader could also probably attempt to make Leo's chicken, which would be fun.
Tiny note though...I'm pretty sure Leo references home as being in Indiana, but then he mentions the subway, and I didn't think there were any subways in Indiana so I was pretty confused by that...

The Missing Ingredient by Rebecca Roanhorse - 2/5 stars
This was a 3-star story until the ending. The twist is just too out there for me and too dark for an anthology like this.

Hearts à la Carte by Karuna Riazi - 4/5 stars
The superpower angle was so much fun. I liked that Munira wanted to be a wedding planner, but overall I felt like the plot overwhelmed any food angle in this story, and the timeline skimmed and jumped in ways that didn't quite work. HOWEVER. I still really liked the story.

Bloom by Phoebe North - 3/5 stars
I really liked the idea of a Jewish deli in the neighborhood, and I appreciated how literature tied in with food, but overall, I was underwhelmed by "Bloom" and how it incorporated food.

A Bountiful Film by S.K. Ali - 3/5 stars
Ran a little long. I didn't quite love the ending, but I did love the idea of the Thursday Club, and the grandmothers, and their food.

Side Work by Sara Farizan - 5/5 stars
THIS is how you write a great short story. The romance was cute, the food-related plot was so, so good, and the character arcs are well done too.

Panadería ~ Pastelería by Anna-Marie McLemore - 4/5 stars
The prose was a little less flowery than Anna-Marie tends to normally write, which was good. I did wish the story was longer though. The pacing was a little too quick. Lila had popped up throughout the book, and I wanted just a little more time in her head and for her and Gael to get together.

The Verdict: Don't read this while you're hungry.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: Oh, most definitely!

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