Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "In Every Moment We Are Still Alive" by Tom Malmquist, Served with a Recipe for Muslei with Pumpkin Seeds, Walnuts, Banana & Strawberries

Today I am happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour of In Every Moment We Are Still Alive, a heart-tugging autobiographical novel by Tom Malmquist. Accompanying my review is a recipe for Muslei with Pumpkin Seeds, Walnuts, Banana & Strawberries, inspired by my reading.


Publisher's Blurb:

A prize-winning, bestselling debut of love, loss, and family–based on a true story–that’s winning readers around the world.

When Tom’s heavily pregnant girlfriend Karin is rushed to the hospital, doctors are able to save the baby. But they are helpless to save Karin from what turns out to be acute Leukemia. And in a cruel, fleeting moment Tom gains a daughter but loses his soul-mate. In Every Moment We Are Alive is the story of the year that changes everything, as Tom must reconcile the fury and pain of loss with the overwhelming responsibility of raising his daughter, Livia, alone.
 
By turns tragic and redemptive, meditative and breathless, achingly poignant and darkly funny, this autobiographical novel has been described as ‘hypnotic’, ‘impossible to resist’ and ‘one of the most powerful books about grief ever written’.

Shortlisted for the Nordic Council Literary Award — the ‘Nordic Booker’ — the judges praised it as “one of the most powerful books about grief ever written.” Malmquist is the first novelist to ever win Sweden’s prestigious Dagens Nyheter Culture Prize.  This novel is translated from Swedish by Henning Koch (the translator of Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove).

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Melville House (January 30, 2018)

My Review:

I was interested in reviewing In Every Moment We Are Alive after reading the blurb and seeing all the accolades the book was getting. It's based on the real life and experiences of the author, Tom Malmquist when his long-time girlfriend Karin, is rushed to the hospital with breathing issues. What should be a happy time for the couple, Karin is pregnant with their daughter, soon becomes tragic as Karin's health rapidly deteriorates and she is diagnosed with acute leukemia. Doctors are able to save the baby (named Livia by Karin) delivering her prematurely, but not Karin.

This book was a challenge to read for a few reasons. Having recently come out of the hospital, starting in the ICU for a acute asthma attack, the respirator and cannula descriptions (I have an interesting fading scar from one on my wrist) made me flash back a bit squeamishly and Malmquist's descriptions of his anger, frustration and grief are very raw and tug at the heart. The writing itself is free-form--which can be hard to follow as Malmquist goes back and forth in time and writes in rambling sentences where dialogue is written without quotation marks, paragraphs run long, and chapter breaks are few and far between. There are also a myriad of doctors, nurses, friends and family mixed in, most of whom just appear without an introduction, and it takes time to figure out who everyone is. But, as someone who has suffered grief and with it thoughts that run on and on with a mish-mash of past, present, and random images that flash across your mind, although In Every Moment We Are Still Alive can be difficult to read, it comes across as very real and it is worth the extra care it takes as a reader to work your way through it. 

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive, won't appeal to every one--both in the subject matter and the writing style. If chaotic writing leaves you unable to focus on a story, it won't be the book for you, but if you can get into the rhythm of the author's words, there is a beautiful story of family, love, loss, and hope that unfolds from a tragedy.

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Author Notes:  
Tom Malmquist is a poet and sportswriter. He has written two highly acclaimed poetry collections. In Every Moment We Are Still Alive is his first novel. He lives in Sweden.



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Food Inspiration:

Although not a focus in the book, there is food to be found within the pages of In Every Moment We Are Still Alive, including coffee, cheese sandwiches, a salad with prawns and Rhode Island sauce (similar to Thousand Island dressing), orange juice, a late night dinner at a kabob shop with garlic sauce on the table, a Frödinge curd cake, pickled gherkins, a seafood cocktail made prawns, lobster and mint, a dinner of beef, salad, Dauphinoise potatoes, gravy and Bearnaise sauce, coffee and Marie biscuits, yogurt, egg sandwiches and sandwiches of liver pâté and gherkins, pina coladas, cucumber salad, potatoes, lamb osso bucco, a hotdog stand with a Sausage Special with Boston gherkins, and a picnic of Swiss hard cheese, roast chicken, vine tomatoes and Chablis. 

I ended up taking my inspiration from Tom cleaning out the kitchen cabinets in the flat he shared with Karin, "I throw most of the contents of the kitchen cabinets into black bags: pumpkin seeds, black quinoa, apple and cinnamon muesli, raisins, tins of tomato pulp and white beans, cocoa, vanilla sugar, cartons of green tea, toasted linseed, spelt flour, walnuts, dried apricots, some of the expiry dates go back as far as 2003."
 
I decided it was a good time to make some homemade muesli, and decided to put a few of the ingredients that mentioned in the book and that I had in my pantry (pumpkin seeds, walnuts, cinnamon, apples, and dried fruit) into it.


Muesli, is a breakfast dish based on raw oats, grains, seeds, nuts, and dried and fresh fruit that was usually mixed with milk or yogurt and left overnight for the oats to soften, then eaten cold. Muesli was developed in the early 1900s by Swiss doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital. The original Bircher muesli was soaked overnight with water and lemon juice and then mixed with yogurt to eat the next day.  Muesli comes in many different styles and forms now pre-packaged and fresh. I am not a big hot oatmeal fan but like muesli and it's modern application into overnight oats.
 
This is a recipe I use often, (I've posted it here and here) based on Jamie Oliver's Pukkolla from The Naked Chef Takes Off. I have adapted it to my tastes over the years (including making a smaller batch here) and I vary the ingredients based on what I have in the pantry and what strikes my mood.


Muesli with Pumpkin Seeds, Walnuts, Banana & Strawberries
Adapted from Jamie Oliver

Muesli Dry Mix:
4 large handfuls of organic rolled oats
1 handfuls of chopped dried fruits of choice (I used pineapple & papaya)

1 handful of crumbled or chopped walnuts or nuts of choice 
1 handful of pumpkin seeds 
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Add your oats to an airtight container along with the dried fruit, nuts and cinnamon. Place the lid on and shake well to mix. This dry mixture will keep for a good couple of months in the airtight container


The Night before: 
non-dairy milk to cover (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
1/2 crunchy apple per serving, washed and unpeeled

You can make this anytime, but letting it sit overnight (or for about 8 hours), gives it a better texture. Place the amount of dry muesli you want to eat in a bowl or small, lidded container. (Remember the dry muesli will almost double in volume so an average serving is about 1/2 to 1/3 cup of dry mix.)

Grate in about 1/2 an apple per person, cover with the milk and stir immediately to keep the apple from discoloring. Place in the fridge overnight. 


To Eat:
1/2 banana per person, peeled and sliced or mashed 

1/2 cup sliced strawberries or other fruit
honey or maple syrup to taste

Remove the container/bowl from the fridge. You will find that the muesli has softened and thickened, so loosen with a little additional milk. Add your banana, sliced or mashed or blueberries. You will find that a lot of natural sweetness has come out of the dried fruit, so add honey or maple syrup to taste. Serve and enjoy.



Notes/Results: Muesli makes for a satisfying breakfast and it is one of those recipes that you can adapt to your tastes and available ingredients, adding more or less of any ingredient too. if you want less sugar, use less dried fruit and bump up the nuts and seeds if you want more protein--it all works. Don't leave out the grated apple (I like HoneyCrisp) as it adds a nice sweet-tart flavor to the oats and a great texture to the mix. Although I only made a half-batch, since you only use a 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the oat mixture per serving, I'll be enjoying it for breakfast a lot. ;-)


I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.


Note: A review copy of "In Every Moment We Are Still Alive" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. 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 TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

 

10 comments:

  1. Heart breaking topic. Glad to see you posting again! Hope all is well!

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  2. Wow tough book, and especially for you right now -- with your recent hospital and rehab experiences. I'd have to be in the right mood, but I think it'd be a book I'd (not the right word, but ...) enjoy. (like? appreciate?)

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  3. That recipe looks so good! I'm going to give it a try. I'd like to read this book. It may be tough since I went to a very dark place after losing my husband, but I want to learn about this man, his lost love, and the amazing gift she left him, their daughter.

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  4. Probably not my sort of writing style, but the Muesli sounds excellent. I've gotten out of the habit of making granola, but I think this would do us better.

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  5. Glad you're back! Yes, the book covers a difficult topic, but sometimes we need to read how others have experienced grief and coped in order to make sense of our own. The muesli looks yummy and nutritious. I love oatmeal in the morning -- need to try your recipe. Thanks!

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  6. You are brave to read that! Some day I'm going to try making Mueseli. I've meant to do it for ages.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  7. The muesli recipe looks great - I especially love that you can make it the night before.

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  8. Maybe not for me at this time. Cheers

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  9. The book would be too emotional for me- but love your recipe

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