cover image Search


Michelle Huneven. Penguin Press, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-30005-3

Huneven frames her bloated latest (following Off Course) as the second edition of restaurant critic and food writer Dana Potowski’s latest book, also titled Search, which documents a Southern California Unitarian Universalist church’s search for a new minister. The search committee is a motley crew of eight, ranging in age from 20-something Jennie Kanematsu-Ross, a feisty former goth girl; to long time member and former church president Belinda Bauer, 82. There’s also 50-something Dana, who joins in order to write the book, sensing an opportunity to describe the meals that take place during the meetings. Along the way, she chronicles her own spiritual development, which involved her enrollment in a seminary two decades earlier. Huneven’s descriptions of the committee’s machinations are engaging, as are the group’s internecine struggles—the younger members favoring showmanship and originality in a minister, while the older set values more traditional qualities. Huneven injects humor and tension, but the endless cataloging of minutiae (meetings, “packets,” surveys, more meetings called “cottage groups”) wears thin, and the denouement may leave some cold. Readers will need to be patient and generous to get the most out of the insights buried in this slow-going affair. (Apr.)