There are some novels that I can pick up and from the first page tell that the story is going to be good. North of Happy by Adi Alsaid is one of these books. It came to me by way of HipMamaJenn after her visit to Teen Book Con this year and it’s taken me this long to get to it because of my book stash (you know the one, it sits on the desk/ bedside table/ kitchen table / work bag / little table in the bathroom next to the bath / anywhere there is space, and it takes forever to get through).
North of Happy is the story of Carlos who has lived a privileged life in Mexico City with his mother and father, and his eccentric and flighty brother Felix. Carlos has dreams of being a top chef in a restaurant of his own, but his father appears to have other plans; a university education followed by a business career. Carlos seems resigned to this life; until Felix’s untimely death makes him reevaluate his path.
Leaving home suddenly, Carlos follows the way defined for him by the ghosts of his life, and seeks an education that money cannot buy. From travelling out of the country to a new city, to finding new love and to experiencing the cutthroat world of the professional kitchen, Carlos’ story is a coming of age, but also a coming of realization. There is only one life, and time with loved ones is short.
The book is interspersed with mouthwatering recipes and a clever delivery of method. It also contains descriptive passages which bring to the fore a love of nature and of the aesthetically beautiful world. Carlos’ story unfolds as his cooking does, entwining in it the love that he has of the kitchen and of the people surrounding him, including Felix who assumes the place of Carlos’ inner conscience.
This is a fantastic story, about grief, loss, love and passion for one’s dreams.
Take a read and be prepared to get hungry (not only for food but for life as well).