Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer tells the story of Lorca, the emotionally neglected daughter of a chef, and Victoria, an Iraqi Jewish widow who used to own a restaurant. Told in alternating chapters from both of their points of view, we uncover their secrets, desires, and fears as they come together to cook, and then as their relationship evolves into something much deeper.
This is a densely written novel with beautiful imagery. The characters are heartbreakingly three-dimensional, and their relationships are complex. Soffer’s depictions of love and grief are beautifully rendered. Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is a novel which relies on its characters, so definitely give this one a try if you enjoy character-driven literary fiction. The descriptions are gorgeous, too–you can see the apartment, feel the floor beneath your feet, and, most important, smell and taste the food.
Food is how characters relate to one another in this novel. A dish called masgouf (the national dish of Iraq) is very nearly a character on its own. All those who love food, cooking, and the way it brings people together will enjoy that part of this novel.
Joanne Harris might be a good readalike for those who enjoyed this book (and vice versa–if you already like Joanne Harris you might like Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots). Try Chocolat or Five Quarters of the Orange. Both employ themes of food and family, and Harris has a dense and rewarding writing style. Five Quarters of the Orange also deals with the complex relationship between mothers and daughters. Khaled Hosseini might also be a good readalike choice–he has an eloquent style, and Afghanistan is vividly rendered. His ability to provide a sense of place is wonderful, and his characters and their relationships are very well-drawn. Try And the Mountains Echoed, his sweeping multi-generational story that follows a family and explores the ties that bind them together. Though be warned Hosseini’s books contain more violence than these other suggestions.
Last, I’d suggest Muriel Barbery’s lovely novels as readalikes. If the relationship between Violet and Lorca was your favorite part of Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, you might like the friendship that springs up between Renee and Paloma in The Elegance of the Hedgehog. And if the food talk was what you responded to, try Barbery’s Gourmet Rhapsody, about a dying food critic trying to capture the memory of the perfect taste.