Today's TLC Book Tour stop celebrates those sweet and juicy cherries, with a review of the historical novel, The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna. Set on a family farm and cherry orchard near the banks of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin, it tells the tale of the changing home front during World War II and the effects it has on a family. Accompanying the review is a recipe for an almost no-effort Quick & Easy Fresh Cherry Sauce inspired by the book.
A memorable coming-of-age story and love story, laced with suspense, which explores a hidden side of the home front during World War II, when German POWs were put to work in a Wisconsin farm community . . . with dark and unexpected consequences.
The war has taken a toll on the Christiansen family. With food rationed and money scarce, Charlotte struggles to keep her family well fed. Her teenage daughter, Kate, raises rabbits to earn money for college and dreams of becoming a writer. Her husband, Thomas, struggles to keep the farm going while their son, and most of the other local men, are fighting in Europe.
When their upcoming cherry harvest is threatened, strong-willed Charlotte helps persuade local authorities to allow German war prisoners from a nearby camp to pick the fruit.
But when Thomas befriends one of the prisoners, a teacher named Karl, and invites him to tutor Kate, the implications of Charlotte’s decision become apparent—especially when she finds herself unexpectedly drawn to Karl. So busy are they with the prisoners that Charlotte and Thomas fail to see that Kate is becoming a young woman, with dreams and temptations of her own—including a secret romance with the son of a wealthy, war-profiteering senator. And when their beloved Ben returns home, bitter and injured, bearing an intense hatred of Germans, Charlotte’s secrets threaten to explode their world.
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (June 2, 2015)
Publisher: William Morrow (June 2, 2015)
I liked The Cherry Harvest, immediately caught up in the story of German prisoners of war brought in to help with the harvest of local growers who have crops to bring in, but no help to do it with their local boys and men off to war and the remaining labor force working at the shipyards. The growers can't afford to pay the high wages or provide the steady work of the shipyards, making the idea of bringing in the loathed and feared Nazis that their husbands, brothers, and sons are fighting extremely polarizing for the community. Such an interesting premise and the author crafts a very real world and a story that I was easily swept up in. I typically have challenges liking a book when I can't connect to the main character and I had a difficult time with Charlotte beginning with the first scene where she takes (basically steals) and slaughters one of her daughter's rabbits to put food on the table. Although I admired her strength and ingenuity to keep the family farm going and her family fed, the way she went about things made me dislike her. Almost every action she took, even the ones she took for others, had some sort of thoughtless or selfish act attached. The story is told from her viewpoint, as well as from the perspective of her daughter Kate. Kate is spending her last summer before college earning money for school, being tutored in math by one of the POWs, and falling for a rich senator's son. She is young, immature and impetuous, but definitely more likable than Charlotte. Still, my dislike of Charlotte did not hamper my pleasure in the story and I did have empathy for her. With her son off to war and her daughter and husband closer and having much more in common with each other, much of her vulnerability and loneliness was understandable--although how she deals with it has huge consequences for her and her family.
There are some heavy themes in this book--marital infidelity, violence, the war itself, and the terrible physical and mental effects it has on the soldiers and their families at home, so The Cherry Harvest is by no means a light read. Still, the absorbing story with its many twists and its cherry harvest setting make for an engaging summertime read--best enjoyed while on the lanai with a bowl of fresh cherries to munch on (or a bowl of vanilla ice-cream, topped with chunky fresh cherry sauce).
Author Notes: Lucy Sanna has published poetry, short stories, and nonfiction books, which have been translated into a number of languages. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Sanna now divides her time between Madison, Wisconsin, and San Francisco. The Cherry Harvest is her first novel.
Find out more about Lucy at her website and connect with her on Facebook.
There was actually plenty of food inspiration in the book--starting with the cherry orchard of course--and the delicious cherry pies that Charlotte is known for. Even during the lean times of war and rations, Charlotte manages to obtain a variety ingredients to feed her family well--trading goats milk, eggs, and a knitted vest for meat, fish, citrus, vegetables and coffee. With the harvest and cherries to sell and trade trade, she buys large quantities of flour, butter and sugar to make her pies--another source of income for the family.
For my book-inspired dish, I had to use cherries, since they tempted me the most and are on sale right now. I am not a pie maker--too much skill and effort required--so I went with a fresh cherry sauce, served over vanilla bean ice cream. In the novel, Charlotte tells Thomas that once they have money again she wants to get a couple of dairy cows for the supply of milk and the butter, cheese, cream, and buttermilk she will be able to make, not to mention the ice cream. "I'll make vanilla bean ice cream. Oh, I can almost taste it! With cherry sauce." Yes, vanilla ice cream with cherry sauce sounded pretty delectable to me.
Not feeling like spending time in the kitchen, I had pinned a recipe for an almost no-effort (beyond pitting the cherries) quick microwave fresh cherry sauce from Confections of a Foodie Bride. A great idea and perfect for when you don't want to stand over the stove, stirring on a hot summer day. I adapted the recipe a bit--mainly adding in orange juice to sweeten the cherries and slightly adjusting the quantities of the ingredients.
With my trusty cherry-pitter in hand, the whole process to make the sauce from start to clean up was about 10 minutes. Using a good store-bought vanilla custard-style ice cream made it even easier. The hardest part? Waiting for the cherries to cool enough to not immediately melt the ice cream and resisting eating it all with a spoon. Yum! ;-)
Quick & Easy Fresh Cherry Sauce
Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride
(Makes About 2 cups)
approximately 1 lb of pitted fresh, ripe cherries
2-3 slices of orange peel
2 Tbsp orange juice
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp honey or sweetener of choice, or to taste (optional)
Place pitted cherries and orange peel into a *deep microwave safe bowl. Add orange juice and sprinkle cornstarch over the top.
Microwave for 90 seconds. Stir gently but well, and microwave for another 90 seconds. Check consistency and microwave 30 seconds more if needed. Taste and if desired, add honey (or other sweetener) to taste if desired.
Allow sauce to cool--it will thicken slightly more as it does. Serve slightly warm over vanilla ice cream. Keep leftover sauce in a jar in fridge and stir into smoothies or yogurt. (or just grab a spoon and go wild!) ;-)
*Deb's Note: A deeper bowl is best as the sauce can have a tendency to boil over as it cooks. You may also want to place a paper plate or paper towels under the bowl to catch any overflow that may occur.
Notes/Results: Such a quick and easy sauce with great cherry flavor. The touch of orange juice and orange zest enhances rather than overpowers and lets the cherry flavor come through. Depending on how sweet your cherries are, you may want a touch of additional sweetener--I used about a teaspoon of local honey for mine. This was fabulous over good vanilla ice cream, sweet and tart, cool, and tasting of summer. I will definitely make it again.
Note: A review copy of "The Cherry Harvest" 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 this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.