From Publishers Weekly
The third book from Vapnyar (following There Are Jews in My House
and Memoirs of a Muse
) links food to lonely, loveless dating among recent Russian immigrants over six tales. The opening A Bunch of Broccoli on the Third Shelf follows endearingly scatterbrained Nina, whose penchant for letting vegetables wilt in the fridge comes to symbolize her marriage. The warm, awkward Borscht centers on the monastic Sergey, who splurges on an affordable prostitute and finds the transaction doesn't go as planned. In Luda and Milena, the two titular elderly women try to outcook each other to win the affections of Aron, the 79-year-old widower who is the prize single man of their ESL program. Vapnyar, who emigrated from Russia in 1994, draws the humor from her characters' pretensions and predicaments, but also finds a great pathos in their quiet—and not so quiet—desperation. She ends the collection with a blog-voiced roundup of recipes that's incongruent with the delicate stories, but her take on the poignant oddities of New York Russian émigré life is universally palatable. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Vapnary’s collection of short stories serves up insights into the intimate relationship of food and love. Nina, a Russian émigré living in Brooklyn, buys vegetables that she never finds time to cook. When her husband departs, she takes solace in her refrigerator full of them, no matter that they’ve gone rotten and moldy. Lonely carpet installer Sergey visits a woman he must pay for services, but her real attraction for him turns out to be not sex but a superior borscht. Another woman recalls with her lover the endless lines Russians endured in the last days of the Soviet Union and how she first discovered that boys differed from girls. Luda and Milena meet in an English class. Luda learns to cook from watching the Food Network, and she engages in competition with Milena for the attentions of a fellow classmate both women find attractive. --Mark Knoblauch