A bighearted, multisensory tour of France.

An American diplomat’s wife finds sweet solace in Parisian culture and cuisine.

It had been Mah’s (Kitchen Chinese: A Novel About Food, Family, and Finding Yourself, 2010) childhood dream to live in Paris, so when her husband accepted an extended assignment to France, she was ecstatic. The typically nomadic lifestyle of a foreign serviceman can be tough on a spouse, however, and when the author found herself alone in the City of Light after her husband was reassigned to Iraq, she was flummoxed. Despite her trepidation, Mah—whose predicament frequently mirrors that of diplomat-wife–cum-chef Julia Child—exuberantly writes of wandering around Paris “conscious of my American accent and Asian face” yet bravely immersing herself in its regional cuisine, which alleviated her loneliness and satiated a blooming curiosity about the luscious food of France. Mah savored the cuisine of 10 different French regions, beginning by sinking her teeth into clumsily ordered but impeccably prepared steak frites, then tackling headier fare like Andouillette. Threaded throughout are anecdotes on Mah’s Chinese-American childhood, her often difficult life as a diplomat’s wife, and the connection between French cultural history and its food. The author lingers over these stories as lovingly as the scrumptious food set before her. Recipes round out each colorful and mouthwateringly described segment as Mah travels to the Brittany region searching out crepes, Provence’s chunky vegetable soupe au pistou, and the Savoie staple, fondue au fromage. Consistently passionate and emotionally resonant, Mah’s prose brims with true love—not only for her adventures in and around the fragrant Parisian marketplaces, but also for daily life sharing delectable food with her husband and rediscovering herself during his lengthy absences.

A bighearted, multisensory tour of France.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-670-02599-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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