For Lorca and Victoria, food is love.
But the troubled teenage daughter of a heralded chef is starving for attention. And the recently widowed former restaurant owner has nobody to cook for.
Hoping to earn her emotionally unavailable mother’s affections, Lorca sets out to make the perfect meal for her. Victoria, in desperate need for human connection, shares her culinary expertise with the sad and lonely girl. Just as the right ingredients, when combined, make a mouthwatering masgouf—the national dish of Iraq—Lorca’s and Victoria’s shared love of food provides them with the ideal recipe to create an unbreakable and lasting bond.
“Lorca and Victoria cook their way out of sadness,” said “Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots” author Jessica Soffer over tea at Sag Town Coffee in Sag Harbor recently. “The book is equal parts darkness and light, sadness, loneliness and pain, but equally weighted with lightness—what happens after sadness.”
The book’s title is taken from an old Arabic saying, “Bukra fil mish mish,” in English, “tomorrow, when the apricots bloom,” according to the author. It was roughly translates to the sentiment “tomorrow is a new day.”
The Amagansett resident’s debut novel is a nourishing novel of hope, told through the simple act of preparing a delicious meal.
Both storytelling and love of food are in Ms. Soffer’s blood. She teaches fiction writing at Connecticut College and her last name literally translates to “scribe” in Arabic. She’s the daughter of writer Stella Sands and sculptor Sasson Soffer, who is the son of a scribe. Her father’s sister, “Auntie Violette,” is the “best cook I know,” the author noted.
Cooking is a cherished activity for the author. Several family recipes, including Violette’s shakrlama cookies, and the traditional Iraqi Jewish dish of bamia—an okra dish—are detailed in the book.
“The food culture of Iraqi Jews is interesting, I wanted to share that.” Ms. Soffer said of her ancestral traditions. But local fare is also a big winner at her house, she added. “We have a house account at Mary’s Marvelous, have been going to Duryea’s since I was a little kid. And crabbing in Sagaponack at Atlantic Avenue Beach, or heading to Sen in the off-season, it’s our favorite.”
Growing up as an only child of middle-class, slightly older parents, reading, and later, writing, provided solace against loneliness, she said. Books were a cherished escape and provided fuel for her imagination.
“When I was set loose in BookHampton, I felt like I was the richest, luckiest kid in the world,” she said.
Even as an adult, she spends “almost every day” at the East Hampton Library. In fact, it’s where she wrote the majority of the book, and where she goes to think up stories for the next one, which she admitted is “percolating,” though she hasn’t started writing yet.
“Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots,” which was published in April, has been praised by many, including Oprah Winfrey (“Soffer’s breathtaking prose interweaves delectable descriptions of food with a profoundly redemptive story about loss, self-discovery, and acceptance,” O: The Oprah Magazine wrote of the novel) and the New York Times. It’s the kind of book, Ms. Soffer explained, that a person can read and think about, then reflect on and return to its pages. Though it was written primarily on the East End, it’s not the typical frothy beach book, she said, adding that she hopes readers will find it entertaining and compelling nonetheless.
“I hope that people find in this book the qualities of a beach read,” she said. “I hope they find it enticing and delicious.”
Jessica Soffer will give a reading and book signing of “Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots” at BookHampton in East Hampton on Sunday, July 21, at 2 p.m. She will also participate in Authors Night at the East Hampton Library on August 10. For more information, visit jessicasoffer.com.