All of my favorite things – smart characters, descriptions of exotic dishes, recipes, menus – come together in Kitchens of the Great Midwest. Eva, the central character, is born in the first chapter and ages rapidly in subsequent chapters where she sometimes plays only a minor role. Eva has a talent for food – knowing ingredients, putting together a meal, and even using food as a weapon. I loved watching her grow into an enigmatic chef so popular people would pay thousands of dollars and endure years on a waiting list just to eat at one of her mysterious pop-up dinners. The chapter titled “Bars” is all about those delicious 9 x 13 pan-baked creations and was the tastiest of the whole book for me.
This slim little novel is so fast paced, I almost finished it in a day. Told entirely in second person, Vida’s narrator has her laptop and identification stolen while checking in to a hotel in Morocco. After some wrangling with the local police, she accepts another woman’s ID and thus begins a series of events, new names and personalities so entangled it will leave “you” wondering who “you” are. I listened to an interview with Vendetta Vida, who is Dave Eggers’ wife, and she said the book was prompted by a similar experience that she had with a stolen laptop that contained an unfinished manuscript. She also said second person narration was the only way she could tell this story. I was hooked from the opening scene and laughed aloud at the last line. Highly recommend!