The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly (with Recipes)

Farrar. Apr. 2021. 416p. ISBN 9780374110321. $28. LIT
Lebo (Pie School; A Commonplace Book of Pie) begins her latest book by perfectly capturing the difference between reading and executing recipes, which “blend the precision of an instruction manual with the faith of a spell.” As a poet, essayist, and baker, the author crosses genres in this essay collection. Lebo’s meditations on “difficult fruits” and difficult feelings give readers an opportunity to explore new culinary creations and reflect on how we create our lives through our choices and relationships. Chapters progress alphabetically, investigating familiar fruits such as blackberries and rhubarb, and (possibly) introducing readers to new tastes like durian and medlar. Many of the essays are accompanied by a recipe or two, though this is not a cookbook; rather, Lebo effectively uses fruit as a starting point for exploring raw feelings and offering wry observations about her life, friends, and family. Perhaps the most moving chapters are where Lebo turns inward, focusing on her hopes and dreams and how reflecting on the tastes and textures of various fruits has inspired her to write.
VERDICT A genre-blending work that will intrigue readers of literary nonfiction, personal essays, or food history.
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