Island Apart

With a track record of grill-themed books like Planet Barbecue!, one might be unsure what to expect of Steven Raichlen's first crack at a novel. However, he's crafted an exceptionally nuanced and fascinating read in Island Apart.

The setting, and the source of the novel's title, is Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts; the main characters are recovering cancer patient Claire and a mysterious figure known only as the Hermit (which might be another source for the title). These two injured souls begin a courtship based not on emotional connection, but on food. From fragrant hazelnut tortes to glistening lobsters thermidor and coconut hot pepper soup, foodies Claire and the Hermit try to outdo one another as they forge their bond. It is a pleasure to behold, although you might not want to start reading unless you have a fridge full of groceries--this book will inspire your inner chef.

Raichlen is well-versed in epicurean delights; as the two loners' relationship unfolds, cooking takes a central role. The riveting descriptions of how these gourmands gather ingredients from the woods, and their process of transforming basic staples into dazzling meals, nearly overshadows the captivating tale of how Claire draws the Hermit out of his shell. In addition, the cast of supporting characters, from a zany author who eats only sauerkraut to a rebellious biker with impeccable manners, serves to enrich the story in an amusingly memorable way. With a debut novel like Island Apart, Raichlen could consider shelving his barbecue tools for good. --Natalie Papailiou, author of blog MILF: Mother I'd Like to Friend

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