cover image PASTRIES


Bharti Kirchner, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-

Cookbook author turned fiction writer Kirchner (Darjeeling) gives us a glimpse into the tumultuous life of a contemporary Seattle bakery owner in this sweet but uneven novel about family, friendship, romance and self-renewal. Sunya Malhotra, 29, is the owner of Pastries, a quaint bakery cafe in Seattle's Wallingford district. Barely recovered from a painful breakup with her activist ex-boyfriend, Sunya feels the world is conspiring against her as a huge bakery chain makes plans to move down the street, her mother's obnoxious fiancé begins meddling in her affairs and the daily personal dramas of her bakery staff escalate until they threaten her business. For Sunya, the most disconcerting aspect of the tumultuous state of her life is that she has lost her passion and instinctive talent for baking. Intricate descriptions of baking techniques ("I turn the dough out onto a nonstick kneading mat") and involved discussions of baked goods ("The amaretto-laced sour cream lavished on top is not entirely necessary... but it prepares the mouth") add a whimsical element to Kirchner's storytelling, but at times their inclusion seems contrived. As the novel progresses, Sunya searches desperately for a way to regain her baking passion, unsure whether she can achieve this through a nascent romance with an ambitious young movie director or by accepting an invitation to attend a baking course at Apsara Bakery in Kyoto, Japan. Sunya heads to Japan hoping to regain what she's lost and also to learn more about the Sunya Buddhist tradition, for which she was named by her long-lost father. The ride from kitchen to kitchen is bumpy, but those who choose cookbooks as bedtime reading will savor Kirchner's baking lore. Agent, Liza Dawson. Pacific Northwest author tour. (July)