In the early 1960s America, Joan Bergstrom, a food-loving, 27-year-old staff writer in LA, pens a fan letter to Imogen Fortier, the author of her favourite magazine column. Joan encloses a gift of saffron and, despite their 30-year age gap, their distance (Imogen lives in Washington) and their very different life paths, they strike up a deep friendship spanning a number of letters, years, life events, world events, cultures and cuisines.
I loved this reading experience, completing the book in one sitting. I laughed, I cried and I felt nostalgic for a time and place I've never known.
Without explicitly intending to, this wonderful story explored a number of complex themes, authentically for its time period, but that have enormous relevance today.
For example, Love & Saffron carries its own flavour of quiet, sturdy feminism right from page 1. The characters' many unconventional-for-the-21st century takes are a welcome reminder, that in our time of "this way or no way", feminism should always be first and foremost about choice.
All of the characters are woven together through exploration and celebration of food. But the two main characters don't storm about imposing themselves and breaking cultural boundaries.
Rather, they are curious about them. They peek over the parapet, quenching their fascination with studious enquiry. They walk through the doors opened to them with deep gratitude and, finally, meld with the boundaries to create wonderful new connections.
As a mixed-race woman, I found this book to be a gentle invitation to treat the enquiries of others with care and nurture. To take the curiosity and roll it around on the tongue, tasting its flavour before deciding to close my mind to it immediately, or else I risk allowing world-weariness to harden my heart and lose potentially beautiful new friendships.
Everyone generally comes from a place of good. People discover the real stories of others when they are permitted to meet them where they are. Love and Saffron's message is clear: we should take more loving chances on one another.
Nothing says it better than my favourite quote: "The less we cement ourselves to our certainties, the fuller our lives can be."
Many thanks to NetGalley, Kim Fay and the publisher for the opportunity to review an ARC.
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