A troubled teen turns to cooking lessons to win her emotionally distant mother’s love in this “moving [and] extraordinary” novel (The Atlantic).
Lorca spends her life poring over cookbooks to earn the love of her distracted, angry mother, a prominent Manhattan chef who left Lorca’s father and is now packing her off to boarding school. Desperate to prove herself, Lorca resolves to track down the recipe for her mother’s ideal meal.
She signs up for cooking lessons from Victoria, an Iraqi-Jewish immigrant profoundly shaken by her husband’s death. Soon these two develop a deeper bond while their concoctions—cardamom pistachio cookies, baklava, and masgouf—bake in Victoria’s kitchen. But their individual endeavors force a reckoning with the past, the future, and the truth—whatever it might be.
“Sassy, brash, acrobatic and colorful…I want to read it again and again.” —Time
“Impressive…Soffer’s style is natural and assured.”—Meg Wolitzer, All Things Considered, NPR
“Breathtaking…a profoundly redemptive story about loss, self-discovery, and acceptance.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Soffer’s prose is as controlled as it is fresh, as incisive as it is musical.” —Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
Lovers of food-centered fiction should find some nourishment in Soffer's debut. Eighth-grader Lorca has been self-harming since she was six years old, lately to deal with pain she feels due to her distant mother, who's more focused on her demanding job as a chef, and her absent father. When she is caught cutting at school, she is suspended and her mother threatens to send her to boarding school. Lorca becomes convinced she can win her mother's affections and forgiveness by making a favorite dish, masgouf, which her mother ate at an Iraqi restaurant years before. Lorca starts taking cooking lessons from Victoria, an Iraqi Jewish woman mourning the recent death of her husband, Joseph, and eager for the connection Lorca provides. Narrated in turn by Lorca and Victoria, with a few appearances from the late Joseph, the novel shows their emotional bond developing as each faces uncomfortable truths. While the plot is thin and the prose dense, there are moments of charm and an ending that reveals the story to be more tightly wound than it appears.