From the Publisher's Book Blurb:
"You know the Dugans. They’re that scrappy family down the street. Their five children run free, they never clean up after their dog, and the husband hasn’t earned a cent in years. You wouldn’t want them for neighbors, but from a distance, they’re quite entertaining."
Yes, the Dugans are entertaining. Entertaining in that way in which while you know you shouldn't stare, you just can't seem to look away--you want to see what happens next. Mother Lavina supports the family and wants out, leaving them for her well-off boss (it happens early on so not really a spoiler). Potter, the father, hasn't held down a job in years due to the pain from a back injury that he drowns out with whiskey. The Dugan children are (in order of birth) overweight and pierced teenager Angie, eldest son Timothy, the twins Marta and Maggie, and finally Foster, the youngest boy. ("The name was based on a statement Mrs. Dugan made, that if she had any more children they'd end up in foster care.") Nice! None of the characters are particularly likable--even to each other most of the time, but I found myself rooting for them and wanting to see them do well. The stories cover about a ten year span in the lives of the family--dropping in and out of their lives, sharing their different viewpoints and experiences. We hear from and about some family members more than others which meant I felt a bigger bond to some of them--Angie, Potter and Potter's sister Patty in particular. Lavina I could never warm up to--although by the end I found some sympathy for her and a slightly better understanding of her choices.
What makes these stories and the book special is that they are all about one family and with the setting over several years, I liked how we got to see the different family members change throughout the book. For some that means growth and some self-understanding, for others it looks like just pain and setbacks. Pretty realistic, as in my experience (there were eight children on our clan), at any one given time in a large family you will almost never find everyone on an equal positive emotional footing for long--for every new job, happy relationship or positive step, someone is miserable, backsliding or having a complete meltdown. The Dugan's luck definitely skews to the downside and there are some dark moments and subjects. Author Anne Leigh Parrish makes "Our Love Could Light the World" gritty, touching, occasionally (darkly) humorous, and very readable. Fans of well-written short stories and family dramas will enjoy this one.
Author Notes: Anne Leigh Parrish’s debut novel, What is Found, What is Lost, is forthcoming in late 2014 from She Writes Press. Her first story collection, All The Roads That Lead From Home, (Press 53, 2011) won a silver medal in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards.
"Our Love Could Light the World" is not a foodie book but there is plenty of food mentioned in it. Mostly family-style food like the dishes Lavina made and froze on her Sunday "cooking day" (before leaving the family for greener pastures and a house with a housekeeper/cook of course), "big pots of spaghetti and sauce, macaroni and cheese, tuna noodle casserole, even a nice beef stew every once in a while." Better than the hotdogs and peanut and butter and jelly sandwiches Potter gives the kids for dinner. There's pizza--black olive and onion is Angie's favorite, takeout Chinese and hamburgers on the grill (One of my favorite descriptive lines: "Lavina started slapping the burgers together in a way that suggested she'd rather be slapping someone's face.")
Ultimately I went with a stove-top tuna casserole (Is it really casserole if you make it on the stove-top?) Mine is probably somewhat healthier than the Dugan family would choose and made with ingredients I don't see them enjoying like dill and capers but, I like what I like. ;-) I also made it dairy and gluten free--more from what I had on hand than anything else. I think it is a lot like the Dugan's stories and the book--not too pretty to look at but ultimately good and satisfying.
Stove-Top Tuna "Casserole"
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
8 oz pasta of choice (I used quinoa pasta)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
3 gloves garlic, minced
8 oz crimini mushroom, washed and sliced
3 Tbsp flour of choice (I used chickpea flour)
2 cups milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 6-oz cans tuna packed in water, drained
2 cup fresh or frozen petite green peas
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1 Tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
sea salt and black pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a large stockpot or pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and when heated, add celery and onion. Saute until onions become translucent and celery is softened, about 6-7 minutes. Add garlic and sliced mushroom and saute until mushroom are softened and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes.
Sprinkle in flour and whisk briskly. Then add in milk by whisking it in about 1/4 cup at a time until smooth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and whisk in Dijon. Allow sauce to simmer about 5 minutes, until sauce thickens. Stir in tuna, peas, capers, dill and parsley and simmer until heated through, then stir in cooked pasta. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.
Serve in bowls garnished with fried onions, breadcrumbs, sliced almonds or more fresh herbs.
Notes/Results: What can you say about tuna noodle casserole? It's not a dish that photographs well or is elegant to look at but, it is the perfect comfort food--creamy and flavorful. This one is a good mix of textures with the different veggies, capers and a sprinkle of the garlic pepper crispy onions that I am sadly becoming addicted to on top. It tastes even better the next day. ;-) I would make it again.
Note: A review copy of "Our Love Could Light the World" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.