Book Review: Life Without a Recipe

Jun 3, 2016

"Life Without a Recipe" by Diana Abu-Jaber

This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett, Director of Eugene Public Library, with a book review of "Life Without a Recipe” by Diana Abu-Jaber.

A quotation from this book:  “Sometimes I think the older you get, the more memories there are, and the deeper the forest becomes.  A child thinks their life has one smooth shape – always moving straight ahead.  Eventually, though, you start to see how crooked the path is, how the trees move closer, how birds have eaten your trail of crumbs.”

In this passage, Diana Abu-Jaber could almost be describing her approach to writing this lovely, haunting new memoir, “Life Without a Recipe.”  It’s loosely knit, touching on food, memory, family, love, loss, longing – all themes familiar to her regular readers.  And although the flavor is different and there’s nary a recipe in sight, in many ways it’s a continuation of her earlier “The Language of Baclava,” a memoir so food oriented that the Library classifies it with the cookbooks.

Her dad, Bud, and maternal grandmother, Grace, continue as vivid main characters, even after their deaths, representing a taut contrast in life choice and expectations.  We relive the nomadic upbringing, the marital experiments.  The most intense sequence, the heart of this portion of Abu-Jaber’s story, is the birth and adoption of daughter Gracie and her struggle to find a balance between love and work after the sea change of motherhood.  

As always, Abu-Jaber’s writing pierces me.  Like poetry, her words and sentences evoke an emotional essence that resonates with our own experience.  She’s also the kind of writer you befriend through the reading.  Putting down the book, I so wanted to share conversation over cake and coffee.  I can hardly wait for her next book, the next cooked turn of her life path.

This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett, reviewing "Life Without a Recipe” by Diana Abu-Jaber.