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Archive for the ‘family ties’ Tag

Beneath the Surface   Leave a comment

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Jennifer Egan is masterful at setting the scene and evoking another era in Manhattan Beach, her recent novel. Her characters, their emotions and their resolve are captivating. The narrative is part love story, part gangster tale in an historic World War II, (mostly) New York City setting.

As a young girl, Anna Kerrigan tagged along with her father, Eddie, on his errands, presumably for the union. On one such outing, the 11-year-old and Eddie visit Dexter Styles at his mansion-like home on a private beach. It’s evident that the Kerrigans don’t share the same lifestyle as Styles.

By contrast, Anna’s family lives in a small, sixth floor apartment. Her younger sister, Lydia, is severely disabled requiring constant care.

Fast forward and Anna is now the sole provider for her mother and sister thanks to her job at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where she becomes the first female diver. Her father disappeared years earlier and the country is at war.

The progression of sorrow Anna experiences regarding Eddie begins with anguish which evolves into anger before settling into indifference. For the reader, however, his long absence is hard to ignore. Egan wants it that way. Meanwhile, Styles resurfaces. Anna remembers him; even though she catches his attention, he has no recollection of her as a child.

The interactions of this trio of main characters across time, complete with back stories, hopes and foibles, provide the book’s focus.

Ultimately, it’s about reinventing oneself and the toll it takes to do so.

Manhattan Beach
Four-and-a-quarter Bookmarks
Scribner, 2017
433 pages

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A Non-Taxing Experience   3 comments


Full disclosure: I have known the executive chef at Income Tax since he was in first grade; his line cook all his life: he’s my youngest son. Although I had nothing to do with Ryan Henderson’s rise to his role, I will take a little credit for Andrew’s interest in food and cooking.
It might be better if I had no knowledge or familiarity with the kitchen staff since it could be perceived that my judgement is clouded. It is. Nonetheless, the meal ranks high among my most deliciously memorable.


Income Tax, located in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago, and Ryan have garnered numerous accolades since its opening December. All are well deserved and the result of careful planning by the owners and Ryan. The concept is a wine bar with food designed to pair with wines representing Spain, Germany, France and Italy. Rest assured wines of other countries are also available. The contemporary vibe and wonderful service complete the dining experience.


I was especially impressed with the elements of creativity. Among the appetizers is a house-made pretzel served with a savory and sweet cherry mustard. That’s  right, cherry mustard. Scallops are paired with chorizo for a lively blend of flavors. A house made bratwurst features strawberry relish. A soup made with ringlets of caraway crepe adds lamb bacon (made in-house). The list goes on.


Of course, no meal is complete without dessert: rich chocolate caneles, port ice cream and chocolate mousse are the ideal way to end a perfect meal.

Excellent work, kitchen crew — even if our ties are long standing!

Income Tax
Five Plates
5959 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL

Kent Haruf’s Blessings   2 comments

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Kent Haruf’s Plainsong is among my favorite books. I haven’t read any of his other works for fear, I think, I’d be disappointed. After reading Benediction, one of the author’s last works before his death in late 2014, I realize I had no cause for worry.

Set in the (fictional) rural town of Holt, Colo., this is an agreeably slow-moving, intimate portrait of the bonds between families and community. The first paragraph sets the tone: Dad Lewis, a long-time resident of Holt and owner of the hardware store, receives the news that he’s dying of cancer. In his dying days, his grown daughter returns home to help; longtime friends and neighbors drop in to visit; and a few flashbacks surface to help tell the story of an imperfect man, beloved by his wife and daughter, estranged from his son, who tried to do his best.

The beauty of Haruf’s writing is that he provides just enough detail to hold the reader’s attention without overwhelming the imagination. That is, situations appear with gaps of information like potholes on a dirt road. Eventually, they get filled.

Interactions with those Dad has known for years intersect with a few new residents to Holt: the preacher and his family, including an angry teenage son and an even angrier wife. The young granddaughter of the woman across the street is another significant character. It would be heavy handed to feature a new-born, but Haruf’s circle of life is gripping, lyrical and not at all mawkish.

Benediction

Four Bookmarks
Knopf, 2013
258 pages