To Lahore with Love
For Addy Mayford, cooking is more than just a passion. It is a guide to life and a way to commemorate any occasion, good or bad.
Addy is happily married to PhD student, Gabe, until one day she makes a discovery that threatens to tear her whole world apart. As a distraction, her best friend Jen decides to take Addy on a trip to Lahore to meet her extended family in Pakistan. Waiting for her there is Addy's final acceptance of who she is, and a long-buried family secret that will change her life forever.
There is very little to dislike about Addy: she is relatable, unpretentious and grounded. Growing up with an Irish-Catholic mother and a Pakistani-Muslim Nana, Addy uses crossovers in faith and religious practices to navigate her dual heritage. I loved how Belitz included various cultural references in this book, such as in the historical sites Addy visits in Lahore and through allusions to Nana’s upbringing and the djinn. I also enjoyed how language was presented and the way Addy navigates this with her Western upbringing.
Above all, I loved how the mixed-race experience was not presented as a struggle or a matter of choosing sides, which is often the case in books featuring a mixed-race protagonist. At one point I was concerned that there wouldn’t be much space left to talk about Lahore but as the story developed, it became evident why it was so important to dedicate time to the narrative in England first. While England is Addy’s home and where she grew up, Lahore is where she gains an appreciation for life and seeks a new way of being. This book offers stunning descriptions of bustling city life in Lahore, which opens Addy up to a whole new world of food, colour and experiences.
Despite her complicated relationship with her mother, who disapproves of her ambition to become a chef, in many ways, cooking helps her Addy build relationships with other people. For instance, it is through cooking that she is able to bond with her Nana. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a new recipe for a dish that reflects the mood or events of the chapter and the majority of which have been inspired by dishes Nana has cooked for her. For Addy and Nana, food is for any occasion and we can see this through their recipe names: the ‘Commitment Cake’, ‘Unpleasantness-Cancelling Lentils’ and, my personal favourite, ‘Despair-Dissolving Mustard Spinach’.
There are too many features of this novel to comment on them all but I do think another major theme running through it is the power of female bonds. After all, a large focus in the book is on Addy’s relationship with her Nana. It also focuses on her friendship with Jen who is her main support network outside of her family. Yes, it is a romance novel, but trust me it’s a lot more than just ‘boy meets girl’.
I would recommend this book to anyone with a love of cooking or romance novels. The book was engaging, comforting and heartwarming - it was exactly what I needed to read during these uncertain times. 8/10.
I received a free review copy of this book. I'd like to thank the author, Hina Belitz, the publisher, Headline, and Anne Cater.