Rosewater and Soda Bread review
More than a year has passed since Marjan, Bahar, and Layla, the beautiful Iranian Aminpour sisters, sought refuge in the quaint Irish town of Ballinacroagh. Opening the beguiling Babylon Café, they charmed the locals with their warm hearts and delectable Persian cuisine, bringing a saffron-scented spice to the once-sleepy village.
But when a young woman with a dark secret literally washes up on Clew Bay Beach, the sisters’ world is once again turned upside down. With pale skin and webbed hands, the girl is otherworldly, but her wounds tell a more earthly (and graver) story–one that sends the strict Catholic town into an uproar. The Aminpours rally around the newcomer, but each sister must also contend with her own transformation–Marjan tests her feelings for love with a dashing writer, Bahar takes on a new spiritual commitment with the help of Father Mahoney, and Layla matures into a young woman when she and her boyfriend, Malachy, step up their hot and heavy relationship.
Filled with mouthwatering recipes and enchanting details of life in Ireland, Rosewater and Soda Bread is infused with a lyrical warmth that radiates from the Aminpour family and their big-hearted Italian landlady, Estelle, to the whole of Ballinacroagh–and the world beyond.
Review and Grade: A
This book is like having a gourmet meal for $15. It’s light but has substance. It’s honest and pure and delicate and delicious. It’s interestingly layered with tastes and meaning, mixing Persian and Irish cultures, Islam and Catholicism, small town and big city life, realism and fantasy. Some books you feel like they were painted, one brushstroke at a time, creating a work of art. Other books, like Pillars of the Earth, are built, with a steady framework developing to support ornate details, creating something steadfast and beautiful. Rosewater and Soda Bread was cooked. The food featured in the story isn’t a metaphor within the story so much as it is a metaphor for the entire book. I didn’t read this book, I consumed it.
I wish I could properly explain what it is about this book that was so wonderful. It wasn’t the characters, or the plot, or the setting (although small town Ireland is a magical place). It certainly wasn’t the dialogue, which was one area I though could use a lot of improvement. This book was incredible because of the way the reader experienced it. For example,
“Marjan stared up ahead. A choir of darkening sea grass shuddered in the breeze. The bushes jutted out from one side of the dune, which sloped right into the water. All along the dune, clusters of prickly saltwort were asleep to the ardor of carder bees. She glanced back at the clearing where the van sat snug on the gravel before stepping gingerly down the slope.” pg 167
There were also aspects of this world Mehran created that were so gently funny they were touching and really made the green little world turn to emerald. Take the town dejenerate drunk and his pet goat, Godot. “Godot’s sour-faced owner was currently crouched on his haunches next to him, feeling him from a pint of amber drink of which he also partook.” Or the lonely grocer who believed a fairy named Finnegan came to visit his shop every weekend:
“In fact, Marjan was one of few in town who knew of the leprechaun’s true origins: according to Fiona Athey, who had in turn heard it from Evie Watson, whose information came straight from the horse’s mouth, her on-again off-again boyfriend Peter Donnelly, Finnegan was a high school prank gone out of hand. Although graduated and on their way to larger debaucheries, the Donnelly twins still kept up their ruse of a leprechaun stealing stout, for they knew how important it was to Danny Fadden’s creative life.” pg 213
I read this book for the Well Seasoned Reader challenge and I’m so glad that I did. I don’t think I would have gotten around to it anytime soon otherwise, which would have been quite a loss on my part. If you decide to pick up this book, take the time to savor and enjoy it. It’s undoubtedly worth it.