From Publishers Weekly
Beautiful strangers bring exotic recipes to town in Mehran's foodie-lit debut. The Irish hamlet of Ballinacroagh is the unlikely new home for three Iranian sisters and their new Babylon Cafe. Twenty-seven-year-old Marjan, the most skilled in the kitchen; Bahar, the tentative middle sister; and Layla, the charming teenager, fled the Iranian revolution and, after some years in London, have arrived determined to succeed. Initially wary natives soon fall under the spell of the cafe's cardamom- and rosewater-scented wonders, with kindly Estelle Delmonico (the stereotyped Italian widow who formerly owned the storefront) and friendly Father Mahoney leading the pack. But town bully Thomas McGuire, who loathes "feckin' foreigners," and gossip Dervla Quigley, who thinks "they're all sluts," will do anything to drive the sisters away. As Marjan cements alliances through her recipes and Layla falls in love with McGuire's son, Bahar continues to be troubled by the violence in her past. Can the provincial Irish welcome the "foreigners"? Will the sisters triumph? But of course! Mehran's mauve prose gets especially purple sometimes (Layla feels love "like the ecstatic cries of a pomegranate as it realized the knife's thrust"), but fans of Chocolat
and other cooking-overcomes-cultural-differences stories will savor the tale, not to mention the 13 recipes, including one for pomegranate soup. (Aug.)
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The three Aminpour sisters escape the Iranian Revolution and make their way west to a small Irish village. There they pursue a well-worn path to assimilation by taking over an abandoned Italian bakery and opening the Babylon Cafe. It takes a while to win over the insular townsfolk, but they manage to make a success of their restaurant, charming even the local priest. They never do span the gulf separating them from Thomas McGuire, owner of the town pub, who sees the sisters as business rivals as much as cultural aliens. The smells of cardamom, fenugreek, and saffron wafting over the town lure locals away from McGuire's bland pub fare, so he plots to shutter their interloping restaurant. To give the reader a better appreciation for the pivotal role of food in the novel, Mehran includes recipes for some Iranian specialties: stuffed grape leaves, elephant ear pastries, and the title's pomegranate soup. Stark contrasts between the sisters' lives in Iran and Ireland and between the Irish and Persian cultures energize Mehran's tale. Mark KnoblauchCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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