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The Last Chinese Chefby Nicole Mones
Synopses & Reviews
This alluring novel of friendship, love, and cuisine brings the best-selling author of Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light to one of the great Chinese subjects: food. As in her previous novels, Mones's captivating story also brings into focus a changing China — this time the hidden world of high culinary culture.
When Maggie McElroy, a widowed American food writer, learns of a Chinese paternity claim against her late husband's estate, she has to go immediately to Beijing. She asks her magazine for time off, but her editor counters with an assignment: to profile the rising culinary star Sam Liang.
In China Maggie unties the knots of her husband's past, finding out more than she expected about him and about herself. With Sam as her guide, she is also drawn deep into a world of food rooted in centuries of history and philosophy. To her surprise she begins to be transformed by the cuisine, by Sam's family — a querulous but loving pack of cooks and diners — and most of all by Sam himself. The Last Chinese Chef is the exhilarating story of a woman regaining her soul in the most unexpected of places.
This exhilarating story is the transporting tale of how the sensual, romantic elements of haute Chinese cuisine become the perfect ingredients to lift the troubled soul of a grieving American woman.
In her satisfying, sensual third novel, Nicole Mones takes readers inside the hidden world of elite cuisine in modern China through the story of an American food writer in Beijing. When recently widowed Maggie McElroy is called to China to settle a claim against her late husbands estate, she is blindsided by the discovery that he may have led a double life. Since work is all that will keep her sane, her magazine editor assigns her to profile Sam, a half-Chinese American who is the last in a line of gifted chefs tracing back to the imperial palace. As she watches Sam gear up for Chinas Olympic culinary competition by planning the banquet of a lifetime, she begins to see past the cuisines artistry to glimpse its coherent expression of Chinese civilization. It is here, amid lessons of tradition, obligation, and human connection that she finds the secret ingredient that may yet heal her heart.
From a debut author already praised by Colum McCann as a "profound and necessary new voice" comes a novel about two women adrift in New York—an Iraqi Jewish widow and the latchkey daughter of a chef—who find each other and a new kind of family through their shared love of cooking.
Reading group favorite Nicole Mones transports readers to the fascinating world of elite cuisine in modern China with the story of an American food writer traveling in Beijing. Recently widowed Maggie MacElroy is unexpectedly called to China to settle a claim against her late husband's estate. Shocked to discover that he may have led a secret life, she immerses herself in the comforting distraction of work. She is sent by the magazine she works for to profile Sam, a Chinese American who is the last in a line of gifted chefs in China tracing back to the imperial palace. As Sam prepares an elaborate banquet, his audition for the Cultural Olympics, Maggie learns to appreciate the beauty and balance, ritual and meaning of Chinese cooking and culture — and finds the secret ingredient that will bring solace to her heart.
Infused with themes of tradition and obligation, belonging and connection, Mones's satisfying, sensual novel just might be the perfect leisure read . . . This delicious book will leave you with an intense craving for perfectly prepared Chinese food (Wall Street Journal).
“Sassy, brash, acrobatic and colorful . . . I want to read it again and again.” —Time
“Impressive . . . Soffers style is natural and assured.” —Meg Wolitzer, All Things Considered, NPR
Lorca spends her life poring over cookbooks to earn the love of her distracted mother, a chef, who is now packing her off to boarding school. Desperate to prove herself, Lorca resolves to track down the recipe for her mothers ideal meal. She signs up for cooking lessons from Victoria, an Iraqi-Jewish immigrant profoundly shaken by her husbands death. Soon these two women develop a deeper bond while their concoctions—cardamom pistachio cookies, baklava, and masgouf—bake in Victorias kitchen. But their individual endeavors force a reckoning with the past, the future, and the truth—whatever it might be.
In Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots we see how food sustains not just our bodies, but our hopes as well. Bukra fil mish mish, the Arabic saying goes. Tomorrow, apricots may bloom.
“A profound and necessary new voice. Soffers prose is as controlled as it is fresh, as incisive as it is musical. Soffer has arrived early, with an orchestra of talent at her disposal.” —Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
“Moving [and] extraordinary.” —Atlantic
“A work of beauty in words . . . Soffer is a master artist painting the hidden hues of the human soul.” —New York Journal of Books
About the Author
NICOLE MONES is the author of the New York Times Notable Book Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light. She started a textile business in China at the end of the Cultural Revolution and ran it for eighteen years, and she brings to her fiction writing an in-depth understanding of China and its culture. Mones is a frequent contributor to Gourmet magazine, which ran an excerpt of The Last Chinese Chef—marking the first time Gourmet has ever published fiction in its pages. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
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