Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: "The Conditions of Love" A Novel by Dale M. Kushner with Mint-Chocolate Chip 'Nice' Cream (Non-Dairy Banana Ice Cream)

Fox poked a finger into one of the eroded puddles and scooped out the same kind of snail shell I'd picked up earlier, rolling it in his palm. "Spirals," he said, turning the shell over, they're part of nature, part of us." Our lifetimes aren't a straight march from here to there, birth to death. Each moment is a point on a spiral and many moments repeat themselves in slightly different form." He put the shell into my hand and closed his fist over it. "You've lost me," I said. Fox turned onto his back and looked up at the stars. "That's because it's almost impossible to put these things into words. I mean that our lives are governed by patterns, even if we don't see them or recognize them. But then we find ourselves in a place we've been before." 
--The Conditions of Love, Dale M. Kushner
Everyone wants to be loved unconditionally--whether it be the love of family, the love and care of friends who become like family, or the heady passion of romantic love. In The Conditions of Love, a novel by Dale M. Kushner, we follow the narrator, Eunice, as she explores the various kinds of love and seeks to find love and acceptance in a world that doesn't readily provide it. 

Publisher's Blurb:

"Dale M. Kushner’s novel The Conditions of Love traces the journey of a girl from childhood to adulthood as she reckons with her parents’ abandonment, her need to break from society’s limitations, and her overwhelming desire for spiritual and erotic love. In 1953, ten-year-old Eunice lives in the backwaters of Wisconsin with her outrageously narcissistic mother, a manicureeste and movie star worshipper.
Abandoned by her father as an infant, Eunice worries that she will become a misfit like her mother. 

When her mother’s lover, the devoted Sam, moves in, Eunice imagines her life will finally become normal. But her hope dissolves when Sam gets kicked out, and she is again alone with her mother. A freak storm sends Eunice away from all things familiar. Rescued by the shaman-like Rose, Eunice’s odyssey continues with a stay in a hermit’s shack and ends with a passionate love affair with an older man. Through her capacity to redefine herself, reject bitterness and keep her heart open, she survives and flourishes. In this, she is both ordinary and heroic. At once fable and realistic story, The Conditions of Love is a book about emotional and physical survival. Through sheer force of will, Eunice saves herself from a doomed life."

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (May 14, 2013)

The Conditions of Love is such a wonderful book--so gorgeously written. The fact that author Kushner is a poet comes through in the language and descriptive writing. Kushner's prose had me going back and re-reading paragraphs--practicing Rose's "soft eyes" by relaxing my eyes and conjuring up the world she created through her words.

"My true education began with learning about silence and what Rose called "soft eyes." According to Rose, if a person relaxed her eyes, she could see the world as it really was--not only trees and shoes and automobiles, but the spirit of these things. If you kept you eyelids lazy, you could witness a spirit's presence, its invisible comings and goings."
--The Conditions of Love, Dale M. Kushner 

Eunice is a character to root for--a young girl constantly looking for love, for family, emotional connection--just a secure place to belong in the world. Raised without her father, by such a distant mother who cares more about herself than her child, Eunice's capacity and desire for love is moving. She reminds me of a Weeble, those little egg-shaped toys that don't fall down. No matter how many emotional 'smackdowns' Eunice receives, no matter how many separations from those she cares for, Eunice endures, raising herself back up again and learning something about life and herself from each person and experience she encounters. It's that growth that makes Eunice inspiring and keeps the novel from being maudlin. The supporting characters are interesting, flawed in varying degrees but all having something to teach Eunice, whether that lesson be good or bad. The Conditions of Love is engaging, satisfying and hopeful. Wanting to see how Eunice's journey ended kept me turning the pages, savoring the writing kept me intentionally at a slower pace. Fans of mulit-layered novel's, poetic writing, novels of family drama/relationships, and coming-of-age stories will be swept up by this book.      

Author Notes: Dale M. Kushner is a poet and writer. Her work has been widely published in literary journals including IMAGE, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, Witness, Fifth Wednesday and elsewhere. Her most recent poetry collection More Alive Than Lions Roaring was a finalist for the May Swenson Poetry Award at Utah State Press and The Prairie Schooner Book Competition. In 2010 she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Ms. Kushner has studied at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich and has an ongoing interest in Buddhism and spiritual life. She lives with her husband in Madison, Wisconsin. The Conditions of Love is her first novel.

For my usual book-inspired dish, I went with ice cream. On Eunice's day with her father Frankie/Dupere, they have frozen custard cones at an amusement park. For July 4th, her mother Mern, buys mint ice cream and later on they share Neapolitan ice cream with Sam Podesta. Trying to impress Mern with an Italian feast, Sam serves them a dessert of ice cream covered with slivered almonds, and finally there is a soda fountain at Wedenbach's Five & Dime, the store owned by Eunice's foster family. So, although other food was mentioned here and there in the story, ice cream was what I wanted. (That desire could also have something to do with the humid weather this week.)

I decided on mint chocolate chip ice cream and wanting a healthier treat, I decided to turn my favorite banana 'nice' cream--a non-dairy treat made of frozen bananas into a minty version with organic peppermint oil. Wanting to bring a bit of Rose (Eunice's earth-mother rescuer and nurturer) into the mix, I chose to add fresh mint as well as a touch of (local island) honey to round out all of the flavors and represent Rose with her herbs and bees. It might sound a bit of a mish-mash of flavors but trust me, this makes a tasty and refreshing, custardy frozen treat--perfect for a warm humid day.    

Mint-Chocolate Chip 'Nice Cream
(Dairy-Free Ice Banana Ice Cream)
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes About 2 cups)

3 largeish ripe bananas
1/3 cup mint leaves
1 tsp peppermint oil
2 Tbsp local honey
1/3 cup vegan (soy, dairy, nut-free) mini chocolate chips
Peel and cut the bananas into 3/4 to 1-inch slices and freeze overnight.

In the bowl of a food processor, add bananas, mint leaves, peppermint oil and honey and process. Bananas will bang around loudly at first but will start to blend into a thick, creamy custardy ice cream after about 35-45 seconds.

Once creamy, add the vegan mini chips and pulse a few times to blend. (Don't over process or the 'ice cream' will begin to melt.) Enjoy immediately or freeze for about 20-30 minutes. 

If you happen to have leftovers, the mixture will keep for a few days frozen (although it's best eaten right away as the color darkens the longer it sits--it is made of bananas and no preservatives). ;-) It does freeze pretty solidly--so let leftovers defrost 10 minutes or so to soften before enjoying. 

Notes/Results: Cool, sweet and creamy, a bit more subtle than commercial mint-chocolate ice cream but very good. With the mint and peppermint oil, there is almost no discernible banana flavor--just an underlying sweetness from the fruit and the honey. The honey probably isn't all that necessary to the overall flavor but I liked the combination of this mix of ingredients. Non-dairy, healthier and more natural than a regular bowl of ice cream, this nice cream makes a good treat when you are craving cold and creamy but don't want to slap the Ben & Jerry's directly on your hips. If you keep a stash of frozen ripe bananas ready in your freezer, you can enjoy this treat in just a few minutes. Although normally a purist with my banana nice cream--usually using just bananas with a bit of vanilla--I liked how this turned out and will make it again.  

Note: A review copy of "The Conditions of Love" 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.

You can see the stops for the rest of the Book Tour and what other readers thought about the book here

Don't Forget to Enter--The 3-Day Reset Book Giveaway!!!

Speaking of TLC Book Tours, they are providing an opportunity for a lucky reader to win a copy of another great new book. If you are a reader of this blog from the U.S. or Canada reader and are interested in healthier eating and curbing your cravings for less-healthy foods, I am giving away a signed copy of "The 3-Day Reset: Restore Your Cravings for Healthy Food in Three Easy, Empowering Days by Pooja Mottl. You can see more info on the book and leave a comment to enter to win on my post here. (You have until Friday, May 16th to enter)


  1. The.boy would be happy if we ate mint chocolate ice cream at every meal...might have to start feeding him this instead of the real thing!

  2. Love the cover. It reminds me a bit of The Goldfinch ( the cover, not the plot--however there is some major abandoned issues in that book as well). Sounds very interesting, Deb.

  3. The cover is beautiful. I loved reading the review. And that ice cream with honey sounds yum!

  4. Hi Deb, Much gratitude for your fantastic review of my novel
    The Conditions of Love. It’s obvious you
    are a lover of language, its music and its ability to transport us into other
    worlds. One of the greatest joys of being a fiction writer is to know that the
    world you’ve created touches your readers. So thank you for spreading the word
    that TCOL touched you!

    And how did you know mint chocolate chip ice cream is my
    fave? Dale Kushner.

  5. My son is gluten and dairy free so I'm VERY excited to see your ice cream recipe!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  6. Mm.. this sound yummy! Although, honey is not considered vegan because it comes from bees. However, there are many other sweeteners that could be used instead. My husband and I are vegan and don't use honey at home however, if someone were to make this for use with honey we would eat it. That is a compromise we are willing to make.

  7. Thanks Teddy Rose, I realized although I removed vegan from the post title when I decided to add honey to the mix, I missed it on the recipe title in the post. You are correct about the honey. ;-) I think you could omit the sweetener entirely or agave is another great choice. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Thanks Heather, this was a great book. Hope you try the nice cream. ;-)

  9. Dale, it truly is a beautiful book--thank you! I am glad I picked an ice cream favorite. ;-)

  10. Thanks Purabi! ;-)

  11. I have The Goldfinch waiting to read Debra! ;-)

  12. This is certainly a healthier choice Joanne but still tastes great.

  13. I've been vegan for 30 years and veggie since I was 10. so I definatly know about honey. Another sweetner I like to use is pure maple syrup but it does have a distinctive taste so I don't know how it would go with this recipe. I use stevia whenever I can but it can make some things taste funny. I use it in things like homemade lemonade or to make a fruit smoothie a bit sweeter.


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