11 reviews

Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel
by J. Ryan Stradal

Published: 2015-07-28
Hardcover : 320 pages
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55 clubs reading this now
9 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 9 of 11 members

"An impressive feat of narrative jujitsu. . . that keeps readers turning the pages too fast to realize just how ingenious they are."--The New York Times Book Review, Editor's Pick

"Kitchens of the Great Midwest ...
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"An impressive feat of narrative jujitsu. . . that keeps readers turning the pages too fast to realize just how ingenious they are."--The New York Times Book Review, Editor's Pick

"Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a terrific reminder of what can be wrested from suffering and struggle - not only success, but also considerable irony, a fair amount of wisdom and a decent meal."--Jane Smiley, The Guardian

As seen on The Skimm: "Warning: this will make you hungry. . . . You won't be able to put it down. And it will up your kitchen game."

"A sweet and savory treat." --People

One of 2015's Great Reads, and a "Staff Pick" - NPR.org

A top 10 book of the year  - Chicago Public Libraries

A top 10 book of the year - Library Reads
One of 2015's top 15 novels - Daily Mail

One of the top 30 books of the year - Book Page

A "Best Fiction of 2015" pick - Kansas City Star

A top book of 2015 - Detroit Free Press

One of the 20 best fiction books of 2015 - Business Insider

A top 12 book of the year - Los Angeles Magazine

A top 100 book of the year - Amazon.com

A top 20 book of the year in Literature & Fiction - Amazon.com

A top 12 Fiction book of the year in the Goodreads Choice Awards

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country's most coveted dinner reservation, is the summer's most hotly-anticipated debut and already a New York Times bestseller.
When Lars Thorvald's wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine--and a dashing sommelier--he's left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He's determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter--starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva's journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that's a testament to her spirit and resilience.
Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal's startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life--its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of August 2015: Get ready for the jokes. I’d wager you’ll be hearing that J. Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest is “delicious” and that he has “cooked up” a great story about food and foodies, a story that will leave you “satisfied, not hungry for more.” I would try not to make such lame jokes here, but what can I say? This debut novel is as tempting as a piece of Key Lime pie, so perfect is its ratio of tart-to-sweet. The ingredients: a misfit Midwestern girl whose special gift happens to be a golden palate; single-parented by a large and lovable father/chef, she can taste a spice in a trice, and manage the hottest sauces west of the Mississippi. Never mind that Eva is shy and sort of weird looking, she knows she’s got the secret sauce and she grows more confident by the day, thanks to such concoctions as the simplest pan sautéed Walleye and original, perfect Caesar salad (which, if you don’t know – and I didn’t – was not an invention of Julius Caesar but rather that of one Italian-born chef named Caesar Cardini). No one, least of all, Eva, is surprised when she becomes a superstar chef in our food-obsessed culture. Eva knows that people do not live by even home baked bread alone – and her quest in this novel is for sustenance of the emotional kind. Whether and where and how she finds it is the book’s special treat. And yes, you will devour it. – Sara Nelson


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Discussion Questions

Suggested by Members

Did you like the ending?
Did you feel that you wanted to know more about the main character from her perspective?
Was the story realistic?
by drbeth (see profile) 05/07/17

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Book Club Recommendations

serveone of the cookie bars described in the book
by drbeth (see profile) 05/07/17

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Brittany L. (see profile) 07/05/23

by Cindy K. (see profile) 02/05/20

In fact we liked this one so much we read h next one, Lager Queen and had a beer tasting for book club. We cooked parts of the meals from Kitchens if the Midwest for that meeting.

by Erica L. (see profile) 10/06/19

by lindsay s. (see profile) 09/05/19

by Goldie B. (see profile) 08/19/19

There’s not a whole lot of happiness in this book and it seems to have a lot of unnecessary side stories that don’t add much to the plot.

by morgan b. (see profile) 06/20/19

by Melissa S. (see profile) 04/04/19

by gena f. (see profile) 11/13/18

  "Kitchens of the Great Midwest"by Mary Beth L. (see profile) 05/07/17

This is the life story of a woman who develops a great palate and a wonderful talent for cooking great meals. Every chapter is written from the perspective of a different important person in her life,... (read more)

by Bren S. (see profile) 05/02/17

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