Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots

4.4 7
by Jessica Soffer
     
 

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Two women adrift in New York—an Iraqi Jewish widow and the latchkey daughter of a chef—find each other, solace, and a new kind of family through their shared love of cooking.

Lorca spends hours poring over cookbooks, seeking out ingredients for her distracted chef of a mother, who is about to send her off to boarding school. In one last effort to

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Overview

Two women adrift in New York—an Iraqi Jewish widow and the latchkey daughter of a chef—find each other, solace, and a new kind of family through their shared love of cooking.

Lorca spends hours poring over cookbooks, seeking out ingredients for her distracted chef of a mother, who is about to send her off to boarding school. In one last effort to secure her mother’s love and prove herself indispensable, Lorca resolves to replicate her mother’s ideal meal, an obscure dish called masgouf.

Victoria, an Iraqi-Jewish immigrant, teaches cooking lessons; Lorca signs up. Grappling with grief over her husband’s passing, Victoria has been dreaming of the daughter they gave up forty years ago.

Together these two women — a widow and an almost-orphan — begin to suspect they are connected through more than a love of food. In these lessons and their separate investigations, they will be forced to reckon with the past, the future, and the truth — however complicated and unimaginable it might be.

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is a novel of loss, remembrance, and revival. It is the heartrending, heartwarming story of two cast-off characters who find in each other a way of accepting the people we love, including ourselves.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lovers of food-centered fiction should find some nourishment in Soffer’s debut. Eighth-grader Lorca has been self-harming since she was six years old, lately to deal with pain she feels due to her distant mother, who’s more focused on her demanding job as a chef, and her absent father. When she is caught cutting at school, she is suspended and her mother threatens to send her to boarding school. Lorca becomes convinced she can win her mother’s affections and forgiveness by making a favorite dish, masgouf, which her mother ate at an Iraqi restaurant years before. Lorca starts taking cooking lessons from Victoria, an Iraqi Jewish woman mourning the recent death of her husband, Joseph, and eager for the connection Lorca provides. Narrated in turn by Lorca and Victoria, with a few appearances from the late Joseph, the novel shows their emotional bond developing as each faces uncomfortable truths. While the plot is thin and the prose dense, there are moments of charm and an ending that reveals the story to be more tightly wound than it appears. Agent: Claudia Ballard, William Morris Endeavor. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
An unhappy teen and a shellshocked widow make a vital connection, though not the one they initially think, in Soffer's somber debut. Both 14-year-old Lorca and elderly Victoria are carrying a lot of emotional baggage when they meet. Lorca has just been suspended from school after a fellow student finds her cutting herself--a practice, we soon learn, to which she is helplessly addicted. Victoria's husband, Joseph, has just died after a long illness, and she is haunted by guilt about the baby she gave up for adoption against his wishes many years ago. Lorca's real problem is her impenetrably self-absorbed mother, a successful Manhattan chef who prevents the girl from maintaining any connection with her long-divorced husband and frequently stays out late drinking with her equally unnurturing sister. Mom's only response to her daughter's desperate attempts to win her favor by cooking wonderful meals is to criticize them, so when Lorca hears her tell Aunt Lou that her favorite dish ever was masgouf, a baked fish "from an Iraqi restaurant that's closed now," she determines to track it down and learn to make it perfectly. It turns out that the restaurant belonged to Joseph and Victoria, whose pushy neighbor Dottie has just persuaded her to give cooking lessons. Conveniently, Lorca is the only student who shows up, and these two painfully lonely souls not only bond over food, but become convinced that Lorca's mother (who was adopted) must be Victoria's abandoned daughter. The truth is a lot more complicated and won't be arrived at until there have been several more instances of Lorca's ghastly self-harming (described in gruesome detail) and of her mother's incredible callousness. ("I don't know what you want me to do," she says, watching her daughter burn her arm with a lighter.) The plot twists are too obvious and the characters too predictable for the tentatively hopeful ending to be very persuasive. Well-written and atmospheric, but overdetermined and relentlessly grim.
From the Publisher
"Soffer's breathtaking prose interweaves delectable descriptions of food with a profoundly redemptive story about loss, self-discovery, and acceptance."
O: The Oprah Magazine

"Sassy, brash, acrobatic and colorful. . . I want to read it again and again—a novel about an elderly Iraqi Jewish immigrant and a 14-year-old pain addict, a novel of redemption and joy, a novel of history and belonging, beautifully written and sharply felt. It is a love song to both American and Iraqi culture, a sly political allegory and a homage to loneliness."
—Colum McCann, Time

"Beautifully written."
Atlantic

"In this novel of shifting point of views, you want to linger longest with Lorca; both her shortcomings and her desires are so identifiable you can’t help but root for her."
—Vogue.com

"Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is an astounding accomplisment for a young, new voice. Undoubtedly this is the beginining of a spectacular career."
Woodbury Magazine

"Told in Victoria and Lorca's alternating first-person voices, the character driven novel… offers fully realized, multidimensional characters who invite empathy and compassion."
Booklist

"Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is an exceptional novel, filled with well-wrought characters and sharp, beautiful prose. This profound story of two lonely people who find common ground in food, told in Soffer's singular voice, is unforgettable."
—Largehearted Boy

"An unhappy teen and a shellshocked widow make a vital connection, though not the one they initially think, in Soffer’s somber debut....Well-written and atmospheric."
Kirkus

"An incredibly talented and promising new author. Soffer's writing. . . sears across the page."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"This powerful debut sheds light on the meaning and power of family, whether its members are blood-related or “created” by nonrelatives. Food is what strengthens relationships here. . . However, it is not just the love of food but understanding and acceptance that help to make this such a lovely novel."
Library Journal, starred review 

"Lovers of food-centered fiction should find some nourishment in Soffer’s debut."
—Publishers Weekly

"This first novel by Jessica Soffer is a work of beauty in words. There is no dead wood in this story; not a word is indispensable. Ms. Soffer is a master artist painting the hidden hues of the human soul. Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is an intelligent work in the vein of Azar Nafisi where the humanity of the characters transcends cultural or national differences and illustrates commonalities."
New York Journal of Books

"Soffer's descriptions of food as well as emotional connections are richly layered."
Jewish Week

"Soffer’s wonderful debut paints an elegant portrait of two women lost in the crush, who find themselves and each other through food. Delicious in more ways than one."
—Flavorwire

"A poignant story of love, acceptance and memory. . . Beautifully written with a deep understanding of both woman and girl, the book is a first novel for Jessica Soffer, daughter of an Iraqi Jewish artist, whose imagination and versatility bode well for her future."
—Moment Magazine

"Lush and layered...This is story about family and love, and how food feeds both of these, but also a story of loss and pain and the empty stomachs of those still learning how to feel. For that I find it, much like life, alive and sobering, buoyant and blue, at times dark, but only until the light fills the room."
The Millions

“[A story] of love, craving and family lost and gained, all through the experience of food — particularly the tangy, smoky, cardamom and saffron-spiced dishes of the Persian Gulf....[Soffer's] writing is as painful as it is exquisite, and [her book] exposes the raw power of love."
The Forward

"What makes a family? Where do we find our sustenance? Jessica Soffer examines the often debated questions with artful storytelling. She calls on all of our senses to consider the age old issue of nature vs. nurture. But food, laden with history and culture, the legendary path to the heart, is the medium. Mix in a very needy cast of characters and the recipe for a good tale is perfected."
Jewish Book World

"A delectable tale of the families we choose...indeed, we root for all of Soffer’s rich and complex characters."
BookPage

"A profound and necessary new voice. Soffer's 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

"Lit by prose of startling beauty and originality, Jessica Soffer’s novel of loss, love, food, and finding family is insightful and, as the story unfolds, increasingly moving. This is that rare debut with the capacity to genuinely satisfy the broadest swath of readers—from foodies to poets, mothers to daughters, solitary souls to friends debating subjects close to their hearts. She is a writer to watch; this is a story that matures and expands with each page."
—Nicole Mones, author of The Last Chinese Chef

"This lovely book is the story of lost souls hanging on to each other for dear life, then finding hope and healing. An emotional page-turner with characters who touched my heart and soon felt like old friends, it commandeered my time until the sweet and satisfying ending. Hard to believe such a wise book is a first novel. Here’s hoping there's much more to come from this wonderful writer."
—Bo Caldwell, author of The Distant Land of My Father and City of Tranquil Light

"This beautiful, beautiful book calls to mind The Elegance of the Hedgehog, for its artistry and heart, and for its two unlikely soul mates—one old, one young, both harboring private grief, shaping their lives around what is missing, looking for families fate has denied them. A gifted storyteller, Soffer writes with a rare combination of fearlessness and compassion; she has a sage's ability to find absurdity and humor in sorrow. Her characters, as familiar as our own imperfect faces in the mirror, remind us to forgive ourselves our foibles: after all, hope—and the need for human connection—makes fools of us all. I dare anyone to barricade their heart against this enchanting novel." 
—Stephanie Kallos, author of Broken for You and Sing Them Home

"I devoured this mouth-watering story of self-discovery, one as deep-rooted as an ancient fruit tree perpetually blossoming anew. With prose sharp as a paring knife, Soffer shows us that love transcends cultural boundaries, age, old wounds and new seasons. So, too, does this novel. A savory debut!"
—Sarah McCoy, author of The Baker's Daughter

"Jessica Soffer's gorgeous and word-wise novel shows us how a single sentence can contain wonders, and a kitchen can contain epics; this is a fantastic debut."
—Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances

"Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is elegant, sensual, surprising and rich. Jessica Soffer delivers a world to us, populated with indelible characters whose fates, as they become entwined, spur us to read fast, faster, except to do so would be to miss the beauty of Soffer's language, which is to be savored. This is a superb debut."
—Dani Shapiro  

Library Journal
This powerful debut sheds light on the meaning and power of family, whether its members are blood-related or "created" by nonrelatives. Food is what strengthens relationships here, particularly the search for specific recipes. Young, troubled Lorca lives in New York City; her distracted mother, a chef, is rather uninterested in Lorca's psychological troubles; her estranged father lives in New Hampshire. Researching how to prepare an unusual meal, Lorca feels she can win her mother's interest and love if she can prepare this delicacy. She meets Victoria, who once owned a restaurant specializing in Iraqi meals. Their cooking lessons lead to confided morsels of their own pasts. However, it is not just the love of food but understanding and acceptance that help to make this such a lovely novel. VERDICT Readers of domestic novels like Julia Glass's The Whole World Over or Joanne Harris's Chocolat will enjoy this charming book, which is as hopeful as its title. [See Q&A with Soffer on p. 102—Ed.]—Andrea Tarr, Corona P.L., CA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547759265
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
04/16/2013
Pages:
317
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Lit by prose of startling beauty and originality, Jessica Soffer’s novel of loss, love, food, and finding family is insightful and, as the story unfolds, increasingly moving. This is that rare debut with the capacity to genuinely satisfy the broadest swath of readers—from foodies to poets, mothers to daughters, solitary souls to friends debating subjects close to their hearts. She is a writer to watch; this is a story that matures and expands with each page."
—Nicole Mones, author of The Last Chinese Chef

"This lovely book is the story of lost souls hanging on to each other for dear life, then finding hope and healing. An emotional page-turner with characters who touched my heart and soon felt like old friends, it commandeered my time until the sweet and satisfying ending. Hard to believe such a wise book is a first novel. Here’s hoping there's much more to come from this wonderful writer."
—Bo Caldwell, author of The Distant Land of My Father and City of Tranquil Light

"This beautiful, beautiful book calls to mind The Elegance of the Hedgehog, for its artistry and heart, and for its two unlikely soul mates—one old, one young, both harboring private grief, shaping their lives around what is missing, looking for families fate has denied them. A gifted storyteller, Soffer writes with a rare combination of fearlessness and compassion; she has a sage's ability to find absurdity and humor in sorrow. Her characters, as familiar as our own imperfect faces in the mirror, remind us to forgive ourselves our foibles: after all, hope—and the need for human connection—makes fools of us all. I dare anyone to barricade their heart against this enchanting novel."
—Stephanie Kallos, author of Broken for You and Sing Them Home

"I devoured this mouth-watering story of self-discovery, one as deep-rooted as an ancient fruit tree perpetually blossoming anew. With prose sharp as a paring knife, Soffer shows us that love transcends cultural boundaries, age, old wounds and new seasons. So, too, does this novel. A savory debut!"
—Sarah McCoy, author of The Baker's Daughter

"Jessica Soffer's gorgeous and word-wise novel shows us how a single sentence can contain wonders, and a kitchen can contain epics; this is a fantastic debut."
—Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances

"Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is elegant, sensual, surprising and rich. Jessica Soffer delivers a world to us, populated with indelible characters whose fates, as they become entwined, spur us to read fast, faster, except to do so would be to miss the beauty of Soffer's language, which is to be savored. This is a superb debut."
—Dani Shapiro

"A profound and necessary new voice. Soffer's 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

Meet the Author

JESSICA SOFFER earned her MFA at Hunter College, where she was a Hertog Fellow. Her work has appeared in Granta, Vogue and the New York Times, among other publications. Her father, a painter and sculptor, emigrated from Iraq to the US in the late 1940s. She teaches fiction at Connecticut College and lives in New York City.

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