What is edible about this book, Edible Stories: a novel in 16 parts?
Not much, really. A far cry from the Kurlansky selection we read in August, there are no recipes, no community stories… The most mouthwatering descriptions are of Orangina and caviar… Things already prepared for us, and placed on a shelf in a store for us to pick up.
We start this book with a lie. A man decides to lie rather than be embarrassed for a single moment… He pretends his entire life to everyone he sees and knows. It makes them wary of him; they stop trusting him. The people around him—his wife, his secretary, his boss and colleagues—they grow tired of his false front. They can’t connect to this persona.
I couldn’t connect to this book. Each vignette gave me enough to keep reading, but not enough to care… about whatever each person was doing next or had done when they reappeared or whether their families were fine or still eating.
And connection, to me, is the most important thing in the world.
I was in Chicago this summer, attending a conference, and one of the speakers there was my very favorite author in the world. Shame and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown spoke on her new book Braving the Wilderness, which is out now. In her talk, Dr. Brown wrestled to understand “belonging” as defined by Dr. Maya Angelou:
You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.
NO. Dr. Angelou, Brené says, over and over. I. don’t. think so. You don’t understand how important it is to belong in a place, with other people. But there is Beautiful Maya Angelou, possibly the wisest person who ever lived and wrote, knowing full well exactly what she means and what others must come to understand. You belong no place. You belong to no one. You belong, free, and every place you are.
So we finally get it, after at least halfway through our lives, if we’re lucky. When we start realizing that we cut our hair for ourselves and lose weight because we desire it, and we spend time doing things we love and wear clothes we find comfortable and fun. When we stop trying to impress and start existing fully in our humanity. It is when we are able to admit our own vulnerabilities to ourselves that we can belong to ourselves. And when we fully belong to ourselves—we can own our mistakes and fears and failings and successes and strengths—THAT’S when we can connect to each other. Anything else is … ingenuine, which we pick up on in others, often when we shake their hands the first time.
The characters in this quote-unquote novel fight constantly to connect with one another because they are constantly fighting to put themselves on. Robert starts it when he doesn’t just confess to his wife Margaret that he knows nothing; each character attempts connection with someone else without even attempting to connect to themselves first. A father recites poetry instead of engaging in conversation; his wife feels completely unheard so constantly reiterates her traumatic turkey experience such that her tofurkey, a sad substitute, is perfect in its role as a centerpiece of the dysfunctional Thanksgiving.
A tenuous connection between stories whetted my appetite for a climax or a meaning or a lesson, but all the bits were a bit … bland. No one betters themselves. No one is really worse than they were when they started. I finished this book unsatisfied and disappointed, like I had ordered a salad when I wanted a cheeseburger… Like I let someone else pick the pizza and they were allergic to cheese. Like someone forgot the salt.
I’m Meagan Zampieri from Norton, Kansas