Rating: 4 out of 5 hoots
Published: June 18 2019
Number of pages: 352
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: contemporary, romance, LGBTQ
Audience: young adult
Get it at: Chapters Indigo
Shelve it at: Goodreads
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, were the answers to life questions are cooked, boiled, kneaded, and baked. Where magic, food, and love are sometimes one and the same. Told in interconnected stories, a group of young adult authors explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment.
Here are five reasons why I enjoyed sampling this delightful anthology of stories.
1. One thing I found cleverly done is how every single story is interconnected with each other. Even the characters make a recurring appearance, especially one character in particular who we are introduced to in her own story called Panaderia – Pasteleria written by Anna-Maria McLemore. I absolutely loved her book Wild Beauty and she is one of the reasons why I wanted to read Hungry Hearts because I was hungry to see what delicious story she cooked up! And her writing did not disappoint me, and neither did the rest of the stories either. I was surprised to find myself savouring every last morsel that after I finished, I found myself asking for more stories!
2. There are a number of different foods to taste and sample from around the world. I was treated with flavourful descriptions of different dishes that I could easily imagined what they could have looked and tasted. In fact, this book should come with a warning as readers might find themselves salivating. Seriously though, even Old Manila’s on Pepper Street which is famously known to serve their magical dish they called Soup No.5 sounds really good and you will be surprised of what’s inside this soup! But it’s not just that, the whole point of Soup No. 5 is that after a customer consumes the dish, they find themselves feeling adventurous, like they got the courage to do something but was held back from their doubts and fears. That’s what I love about these stories, they show how food made by love and warmth can change people after they tried it, bringing them closer to each other.
3. What makes these stories have that extra sugar and spice are the characters. We have a wide cast of diverse characters from different cultures, bringing with them their traditions and values into their restaurants and inside their foods to share with hungry patrons. Every meal is carefully prepped and cooked from Happy Horse Convenience Mart’s sweet pineapple cakes, homemade Coorg Gandhi curry, and Panaderia – Pasteleria’s famous piñata cakes. And with each meal, there is a story of how pineapple cakes can help sooth an angry ghost during a festival that almost goes awry, how a late mother’s favourite curry dish was remade again and again by father and daughter reconciling their relationship, and how a colourful piñata cake can make a perfect sweet gift to a boy from a girl trying to tell him her feelings through baking. Reading about these characters and how their foods can bring magic is very heartwarming as they are told with so much feeling and honesty.
4. There is a story here for everyone to enjoy with themes of love, hope, family and friendship. But a word of caution: there is one story that isn’t like the others. It’s called The Missing Ingredient and it stands out as the creepiest and most terrifying story in this collection. It also made me cringe after the twisted end on the mother’s daughter and her wish to save her restaurant. The Missing Ingredient will have you cry out as we see how a mother and daughter’s wish come true with consequences and yet, the suspense and horror turned this story as the most thrilling one in the collection.
5. If I had to choose one word to describe the theme for this entire anthology, I pick ‘togetherness.’ These stories about characters sharing about how their wonderful dishes made by love can bring people together has also brought me closer to them too. The tasty descriptions of the different dishes made me want to sample them! And the characters with stories to tell about their culture and family traditions are wonderfully spoken in first person narrative. All these stories will delight you and will whet your appetites. So pick up this book and explore this wonderful new neighbourhood called Hungry Hearts Row and dig in!