Fourteen-year old Lorca has been suspended from school. Her cold, distant mother is a successful professional chef with her own restaurant and little time or affection for her daughter. At a time when Lorca clearly needs help, love, and comfort, her mother’s response is to tell her she will be going to boarding school next semester. Lorca feels alone and desperate, with no one to turn to.
Meanwhile, in another part of the city, elderly Victoria is grieving and lost after her beloved husband’s death. She feels guilty, thinking she could have treated him better, and agonizing over a long-ago loss of which she and her husband never spoke. Victoria is also a chef and used to run a small family restaurant specializing in Iraqi food. She and her husband were both Iraqi Jews who fled to the United States just before World War II. Like Lorca, Victoria feels all alone in the world now.
When Lorca overhears her mother describing her best meal ever as masgouf, an Iraqi fish dish, Lorca signs up for cooking lessons with Victoria, in the hopes of learning to make her mother’s favorite dish and thus making her love her and want to keep her at home. The two lonely, aching women bond over food, while each tries to come to terms with her own personal demons.
Warm and compelling, this novel packs a powerful emotional punch, with secrets and twists around every corner. Food plays an important role in the novel (making it perfect for our lunch/book discussion!), as a source of comfort and nourishment, as well as a link to Victoria’s past. The author even includes some recipes (two of which the chef made for us).
This novel also covers some very difficult topics related to loss and love. Most difficult of all, however, is that Lorca engages in self-harm, a somewhat common but hidden practice in our world that is rarely talked about openly. The publisher never mentions this in the plot description on the book’s cover, even though it happens in the novel’s first pages, and I can understand why. This book is so wonderful and has so much to offer that I wouldn’t want people to pass it by simply because it deals with such a difficult topic. Everyone at our lunch/discussion agreed that the author handles the topic perfectly – she doesn’t make you pity Lorca or feel disgusted by her. Those passages dealing with her harming herself are difficult to read, no question, but I felt nothing but empathy for Lorca and was rooting for her to find help and the love she craved.
One reviewer summed up the novel by saying (I’m paraphrasing) that it is about the family you are born into and the family you find for yourself, and we all agreed that was a perfect summation. Despite the difficult subject matter, this is a gripping story that is ultimately hopeful and uplifting, about healing and people in need who find each other. The multi-dimensional characters have stuck with me strongly in the month since I finished the book. Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is a profoundly moving novel, and I am so glad to have read it.
NOTE: The Amazon link included below includes an interesting interview with the author -