This is a story about accepting the people we love--the people we have to love and the people we choose to love, the families we're given and the families we make. Read more...
This is a story about accepting the people we love--the people we have to love and the people we choose to love, the families we're given and the families we make. It's the story of two women adrift in New York, a widow and an almost-orphan, each searching for someone she's lost. It's the story of how, even in moments of grief and darkness, there are joys waiting nearby.
Lorca spends her life poring over cookbooks, making croissants and chocolat chaud, seeking out rare ingredients, all to earn the love of her distracted chef of a mother, who is now packing her off to boarding school. In one last effort to prove herself indispensable, Lorca resolves to track down the recipe for her mother's ideal meal, an obscure Middle Eastern dish called masgouf.
Victoria, grappling with her husband's death, has been dreaming of the daughter they gave up forty years ago. An Iraqi Jewish immigrant who used to run a restaurant, she starts teaching cooking lessons; Lorca signs up.
Together, they make cardamom pistachio cookies, baklava, kubba with squash. They also begin to suspect they are connected by more than their love of food. Soon, though, they must reckon with the past, the future, and the truth--whatever it might be. Bukra fil mish mish, the Arabic saying goes. Tomorrow, apricots may bloom.
A delectable tale of the families we choose
Lorca, the excruciatingly vulnerable protagonist of Jessica Soffer’s first novel, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, is, like so many teenage protagonists, burdened with a couple of seriously bad parents. Her mother Nancy, a chef, notices her when she feels like it. When the novel opens, she’s beginning to feel like it less and less. Lorca has been caught cutting herself and is to be packed off to boarding school. Nancy can’t wait, but the thought of being so discarded terrifies Lorca. As for Lorca’s absent father, he obeys and is cowed by his ex-wife.
On the other side of New York City is another lousy mother, Victoria, a woman with a self-obsession that sucks the air out of any room she’s in. (One mark of Soffer’s talent is that she makes the reader stick with Victoria even at her worst.) Victoria wants to believe that her love for her late husband, Joseph, with whom she used to run a restaurant, was so overpowering that there was no room in their marriage for anyone else. This was why she gave up their child at birth. But now Joseph, as subservient to his wife as Lorca’s dad is to his, is dead, and she has no one but her somewhat scattered upstairs neighbor Dottie. To get over her grief, Victoria starts a cooking class in her own kitchen. To finally win her mother’s affections, Lorca decides to learn how to cook a meal Nancy once rhapsodized over. When she sees a flyer announcing Victoria’s cooking school, she thinks it’s a reprieve.
Well, yes and no. Victoria and Lorca take to each other right away, gently circling each other physically and emotionally as they put together meals from Victoria’s native Iraq. The reader roots for Lorca as she begins to emerge from her isolation. She befriends not only Victoria, but also an equally lonely boy named Blot and maybe even Dottie.
Indeed, we root for all of Soffer’s rich and complex characters, with the exception of Nancy, perhaps—Soffer dislikes her too much. Sometimes families just don’t work, the author seems to say. The good news is you can always find another.