Book Review: Hungry Hearts – 13 Tales of Food and Love Edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond

hungry hearts


A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.
Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.
Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.


As this is an anthology, I have rated the individual stories below but I’m still rating the overall collection a 5 star because I think it’s beautiful and heartfelt and has an important message.

While this book has been on my most anticipated list of 2019 and I have eagerly awaited its release, I somehow never realized that all the stories in this anthology are interconnected and that was actually a nice surprise. I completely fell in love with Hungry Hearts Row, with its diversity and amalgamation of culture, and the absolute pride everyone had in their food and how they loved sharing it with everyone. Grief also seems like a common point among most of these stories, and I think we all can relate to the fact that food always plays a major role in our lives when we are dealing with loss or trauma. While every single description of food in this collection is mouthwatering and I highly recommend you don’t read the book when hungry, every story here tugs at your heartstrings and just makes you feel. Food is truly magical and it has the ability to bring us all closer, and I hope this amazing collection of stories has the same impact on its readers.

Rain by Sangu Mandanna 

A heartbreaking story of a father-daughter duo coping with the loss of her mother, and trying to remember her by cooking her favorite delicacy. It showed how much we associate specific foods with our loved ones, especially moms and I loved the way they tried to get the taste just right. Beautiful story of grief and loss that ultimately leads to hope.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Kings and Queens by Elsie Chapman 

A story of family, food, gangs, loyalty and revenge, this was thrilling and dramatic and definitely not what I was expecting. Very interesting and enjoyable.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Grand Ishq Adventure by Sandhya Menon 

A story about finding the courage to do things outside our comfort zone, without worrying about the end result, this was a beginning of a cute teenage love story while also being very profound and insightful. The main character embarks on her adventure by exploring unknown to her cuisines and I loved how this symbolized her being courageous. And those food descriptions were delicious.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sugar and Spite by Rin Chupeco 

Very much seeped in the folk magic of the Philippines, this is a beautiful story about the importance of traditions and legacy, while also arriving at the realization that sometimes it’s okay to infuse a bit of newness into the traditions to keep them alive and move forward. The way magic and food is interlinked in the story is amazing and the second person writing style made the theme of high school bullying feel very visceral. And while the major lesson here is never to use magic for personal vengeance, there was also an emphasis on standing up for oneself and I thought that was explained very well.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Moments to Return by Adi Alsaid 

While I didn’t fully comprehend the feeling of doom the main character felt, I totally understood her excitement and the feeling of magic she tasted in the delicious food which made my mouth water as well. My takeover from the story was that we should find magic in the little things in life because we are all mortal and while we may die, our experiences live on.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Slender One by Caroline Tung Richmond 

Another beautiful story about carrying forward the family legacy, sometimes even when you feel like you want to carve your path in life away from it all. It also shows the importance of having friends who truly appreciate your culture, not just as an exoticized other. I also thought the concept of appeasing the fears or loneliness of ghosts through food was very fascinating and unique. It ended on a really cute note and I wouldn’t have minded to read what happened next.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Gimme Some Sugar by Jay Coles 

The story of a young boy who signs up for a cooking competition so that he can win money for his mom’s surgery, this made me so emotional. His anxiety attacks just made me feel so raw because were written in a way that evokes that feeling in us readers. The cooking process on the other hand is written with so much love, with the message being that infusing your soul into the food is what makes it amazing, and I thought that was brilliant. And god all that talk of butter…. I just wanted to go and eat some mozzarella sticks or butter chicken.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Missing Ingredient by Rebecca Roanhorse 

A story about a girl who just wants her mom to be back to normal, and her mom who cares more about their restaurant than the daughter, this was creepy af all the way through but that ending just knocked it out of the park. I did not see that coming.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Hearts à la Carte by Karuna Riazi 

Set against the backdrop of a halal food cart, this is the endearing story of a developing friendship between the cart owner’s slightly shy daughter and a cute young superhero. While there were a couple of angsty moments, I loved how they connected over food and made some unlikely decisions for their future.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Bloom by Phoebe North 

There is a lot of pain in this story, especially how inter generational trauma affects survivors in the long run and defines their life choices, making them different from everyone else who can never understand it all. I didn’t always connect to the main character but it ends on a very sweet note.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A Bountiful Film by S. K. Ali 

Told through the POV of a young woman who is new to the neighborhood, this is a story of finding your place in new circumstances and opening up your heart to receive the love that others want to give you. And I absolutely love the idea that people show love through food, because it felt very relatable.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Side Work by Sara Farizan 

While this started off on a sad note, it was a wonderful story about a young woman trying to get her parents to trust her again, the pride she took in working at her uncle’s restaurant and the beginning of a cute sapphic love story. I particularly appreciated the theme that a restaurant’s success depends on how well the staff are treated and when importance is given to how authentic the food being prepared is, not just the glossy appearance of the place.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Panaderia ~ Pasteleria by Anna-Marie McLemore 

The story of a girl who knows exactly what to bake for others because she feels comfortable communicating through food rather than words – this was sweet and heartfelt. But there was also an underlying theme of the harmful affects of gentrification and how it must feel for families who can’t afford to live in the places which have been home for decades, and it all made me sad.

Rating : ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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12 thoughts on “Book Review: Hungry Hearts – 13 Tales of Food and Love Edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond

Add yours

  1. I’ve come to like anthologies a lot lately, because of their themes or the fact that the stories are short and yet have such powerful messages. This book sounds absolutely delicious. I wonder if I can get my hands on it soon😊

    Liked by 1 person

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