I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love by Elsie Chapman, Caroline Tung Richmond, Sara Farizan, Sandhya Menon, Sangu Mandanna, Rebecca Roanhorse, Adi Alsaid, Phoebe North, Anna-Marie McLemore, Jay Coles, Rin Chupeco, S.K. Ali, Karuna Riazi
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Published by Simon and Schuster on June 18th, 2019
Also by this author: When Dimple Met Rishi, From Twinkle, with Love, There's Something About Sweetie, Never Always Sometimes, Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft
Format: eARC (352 pages) • Source: Publisher
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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.
I was so excited for this anthology because I’m a huge fan of food (of all types) and short story collections in general! I love even MORE when the stories are connected. In this case, all of these occur on Hungry Hearts Row, a place where “magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.” As usual, I’ll be sharing mini reviews and ratings for each story, plus overall feelings and an average rating for the whole anthology.
Rain by Sangu Mandanna
I’m glad that the first story introduced the setting of Hungry Hearts Row, because I was curious about how they would set that scene if someone didn’t read the synopsis. The main character comes in from England and talks about the Indian food from her mother’s home. She’s grieving her mother and struggling to keep a connectiong with her father throughout the story, so it was a bit melancholy. I loved how she connected her mother with food (specifically her favorite dish). Such a cute and simple story about family, loss, and food… and how all three connect to keep someone’s memory alive.
Kings and Queens by Elsie Chapman
I loved the exploration Chinese food here, especially because it has become so Westernized in American Chinese restaurants. (I also loved that the first connections between the stories starting already, because this family’s restaurant was referenced in the first story and there were a few characters I assume will come around later.) It took a turn I did not expect, early in the story, so that was pretty fascinating. I was definitely expecting a place like Hungry Hearts Row to be more happy and positive, so it was wild to have this story so early in the anthology. I was so sad for her sister and their family. I raced through this story, so eager to see what would happen. I loved it and was fascinated by the whole thing.
The Grand Ishq Adventure by Sandhya Menon
I needed a light Menon story after that previous one, good lord. This one certainly delivered! I love that this was a classic example of a girl writing a love-based advice column and not being able to follow any of her own advice… until now. She challenges someone who writes in to visit a different ethnic restaurant each week and she decides to do the same. There were a lot of relatable, food-related elements of this story: struggling to get over the idea of eating alone in a restaurant, moving out of your comfort zone, trying new and unexpected things… Just a lot of wonderful foodie aspects. I was put through a mini roller coaster at the end but I ended up loving it so much. It was predictable, of course, but I don’t care.
Sugar and Spite by Rin Chupeco
I have to admit that the writing style of this one didn’t jive with me. I can totally see people enjoying her writing but there are some styles that are just not up my alley. The story itself was pretty interesting though, with the idea that food can mix with magic and give you confidence, revenge, love, etc. It’s a classic plot idea that I enjoyed. The Soup No. 5 Special was carried over from the previous story, which was a perfect segue. The story itself was really sad; I hate reading about bullying. Again, it’s a personal thing for me.
Moments to Return by Adi Alsaid
I liked this one overall; it was pretty heavy but in a different way than a couple of others in the anthology have been. I think the MC traveling into the country specifically to try the food on Hungry Hearts Row (and make some wishes come true, hopefully) was a unique take for this anthology. I have a feeling the person he met in the restaurant will come into play later in another story (at least I hope!). Again, the interconnectedness of these is wonderful. This story centered around anxiety and that was explained at length, but there wasn’t much else to it I guess.
The Slender One by Caroline Tung Richmond
This was spooky and fun! I like how Richmond managed to pull in a lot of feelings about just wanting to be “normal” at school compared to the home life that’s a bit different than everyone else. The ghost part of the story was unique and a nice change of pace. (So far this is a very well-rounded anthology, in terms of genre and story types!) Overall, this was a cool story with a lot of family feels and messages in a small amount of pages.
Gimme Some Sugar by Jay Coles
I’d been looking forward to this story the most for some reason… maybe it’s because I was curious to read something by Jay Coles for the first time. Either way, this was wonderful and my favorite so far. It’s just a nice, feel-good story about a cooking competition with a lot on the line, overcoming anxiety, family, and soul food that made my mouth water. I was right about Jay Coles – I definitely need to read more of his stories after enjoying this one so much. As for the ending, I was definitely afraid that it may not be a happy one and I won’t spoil anything. 😉
The Missing Ingredient by Rebecca Roanhorse
I have a solid relationship with my mom so reading books about the opposite kind of relationship is always so different for me. This story was hard to read because of their strained relationship and them trying to figure out how to make their Native American fusion restaurant work without the father figure (who was Native). It got… very fucked up unexpectedly and I’m still kind of reeling from it all. I don’t know what else to say to be honest.
Hearts à la Carte by Karuna Riazi
I loved the casual writing style of this one; I felt like the MC was talking directly with me. I also enjoyed this quote because I think it sums up a few of the stories and some general sentiments about the restaurants/characters on Hungry Hearts Row.
I separated categories in my head: cart food and our food. I knew other friends whose parents had restaurants, but I still balked from asking them if they had similar feelings, ways in which they drew the line between the business and them, what territories they could have to themselves. – ARC pg. 223
I was happy to read another fluffy-ish story after some deeper and/or darker ones, and I loved reading how the two characters got to know each other over her cart food. It wasn’t fully fluffy or contemporary (definitely a little magic… to put it in a non-spoiler, kind of true way). It was such a fun and unexpected story direction; I really loved it.
Bloom by Phoebe North
The minute I read the word “whitefish,” I was excited about this story set in a Jewish deli (and very hungry for a whitefish salad sandwich from our local spot). It was refreshing to read of a “romance” in a heavier contemporary, even just for the variety that this anthology has brought so far. I didn’t like Simon from the beginning so I was hopeful that the story would head in the right direction, away from him. I loved reading about the relationship between Naomi and her grandfather, while seeing her future start to take shape. I liked the writing style a lot too and will definitely look into this author!
A Bountiful Film by SK Ali
Again, good variety in this anthology! The main character just moved to Hungry Hearts Row (unhappily, right before her senior year of high school) and is working on a film contest entry. She has a lunch with her grandmother and some of her friends as a possible idea for her film. I loved that the story took on a mystery/thriller vibe as the MC tried to figure out what happened to the “Lost Boy” from the area. So fascinating, unexpected, and well-done for being a short story! Absolutely loved it (and the connections to other stories as usual!).
Side Work by Sara Farzian
I was intrigued by this one from the beginning but a little nervous about what the reveal would be for the accident. (I don’t sympathize with drunk drivers who injure others, so I was afraid I would automatically dislike the main character for that reason.) In any case, this was a nice little f/f story to again break up some of the heavier ones. (Huge ship alert here 😍) I loved the relationship between Laleh, her uncle, and their food/philosophy on restaurants. She had a strained relationship with her parents after the accident and I was rooting hard for them to work on things.
Panadería ~ Pastelería by Anna-Marie McLemore
This was my most-anticipated story the more I kept reading, because I knew it would be about Lila (who appeared in every story so far) and bring everything full-circle even more. I always thought that McLemore’s writing style was too flowery for me (based on reviews for her novels), but I actually enjoyed it here. I adored reading about Lila and her gift for knowing exactly what sweet treat someone needs, exactly when they need it. I wanted to eat all of the desserts after reading this story, which was to be expected. I think I was hoping for a little more oomph from this one, but it could be my fault for building it up in my head too much.
Overall, what a lovely group of connected stories. There is one character that wove her way in and out of them, so I was extremely excited to see how things ended up with her too. Any kind of anthology that promises each story is related is bound to be better, in my opinion. You can develop a bigger connection to the setting and the characters if they resurface throughout each individual short story. That totally happened here! I think my one very general complaint – and this is me just being me – is that I wish there was more romance. I was expecting a few more cuter contemporary stories but there really were only a few of them. I was so happy with the variety so I can’t complain!