Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Kitchens of the Great Midwest captures the midwest really well. The influence of Lutheranism, the cultural battles between young urban-minded and older smaller community oriented citizens, the effect of lots of driving, building communities around things like food and church because there isn’t much else to bond over – all of this rang true for me as someone raised in Illinois.

But beyond being a capsule of a time and place, J. Ryan Stradal wrote a great family novel in his debut work. It’s easy to forget the book is essentially about the relationship between a mother and daughter, because for the majority of the book this relationship isn’t a focus. But an argument could be made that everything that happens to and around Eva is related to her relationship with her mother.

It’s easy to read this novel as pure entertainment - there’s plenty of humor, action and character sugar to keep any reader entertained - but the author managed to also do some great anthropological, moralistic and ethicist work alongside.