Food provides the structure on which Kalpakian builds this novel of a twentieth-century woman’s life. Eden comes from an extended, tightly knit Mormon family full of strong females. Her genealogy-obsessed father succeeds in little he attempts, and even migrating from California to Idaho becomes a setback for the family. A rebellious streak inherited from her mother leads Eden in a different direction from conventional Mormon tradition. She develops more than casual interest in food, starting with a youthful encounter with an elderly black woman who owns a local diner. To help tell Eden’s story, Kalpakian employs “snapshots,” sidebars to the text that flesh out a character or forward a secondary plot. In addition to this narrative, Kalpakian includes several-dozen recipes for foods that figure in her heroine’s life: gingerbread, pork chops cooked in orange marmalade, plum pudding, tea sandwiches, fish tacos. The novel’s scope makes it a satisfying read.
Born in Long Beach, Laura Kalpakian grew up in Southern California and holds degrees from the University of California, Riverside; the University of Delaware; and the University of California, San Diego.
Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Pushcart Prize, and the PEN/West Award for Best Short Fiction.