I’ve been waiting for this one to be released for ages! I love Jenna Blum, she is a wonderful writer, and she is amazing at winding romance together with history, and real human interaction. She also seems to love NYC as much as I do, and it always makes me happy to read beautiful and accurate descriptions of the city that was my home for so many years.
The Lost Family is a story broken into three distinct times: 1965 when Peter and June meet, 1975 when they have relocated from NYC to NJ and have become parents to Elsbeth, and 1985 when Elsbeth is 15/16 years old. The first part is narrated by Peter, a German Jew who survived Auschwitz but lost his wife and two daughters to the war, now owner and head chef of the very popular Masha’s restaurant. The second part is narrated by June, beautiful ex model from the Midwest who is now a bored and disgruntled stay at home mother. The third part is narrated by Elsbeth, a confused teenager who feels unloved and unattractive. Peter’s loss and June’s unrequited dreams and unhappiness trickle down to Elsbeth who finds solace in places that are ultimately unhealthy and somewhat frightening.
I’m pretty sure it was Jenna Blum’s intention to create flawed characters that you can never really fall in love with. Usually that would bother me, not relating to at least one character, but I actually enjoyed this ability to watch from afar, wondering what would make them change, if anything. June was my least favorite, I found her selfish, vain, and annoying, but I did understand some of her choices. I gravitated mostly towards Peter because of his immense loss and his ability to create amazing dishes, but even he was too effaced and weak for real sympathy. And Elsbeth was just so naive, you just wanted to shake her! But they all worked so well in the story, real people who could be your neighbors. Real people with secrets and dreams and desires.
And the exquisite descriptions of food had my mouth watering, and I don’t even eat meat! I love the ongoing theme of food as a love language but also as a weapon of denial. Brilliant!
It’s funny because while I wish Jenna Blum would write faster (just because I love her books), I also love the anticipation of what she will come up with next, and the amount of research into every single detail that goes into her work. The Lost Family was well worth waiting for!