Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love

Lara Vapnyar, Author . Pantheon $20 (148p) ISBN 978-0-375-42487-8

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)

Reviewed on: 03/31/2008
Release date: 06/01/2008
Paperback - 148 pages - 978-0-307-27988-0
Open Ebook - 70 pages - 978-0-307-37761-6
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