Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "What the Waves Know" by Tamara Valentine, Served with (2-ish Ingredient) Banana Panckes with Maple Syrup and Fresh Blueberries

On today's TLC Book Tour stop I am reviewing What the Waves Know by Tamara Valentine, a novel about secrets, love and family, accepting the truth, and finding your voice. Along with my review of this charming and slightly magical story is a book-inspired recipe for pancakes made from banana, eggs, baking power and flavored with vanilla and cinnamon--seems like there's something just a bit magical in pancakes made from just banana and eggs.

Publisher's Blurb:

On the sharp crags of tiny Tillings Island lies the secret of Izabella Rae Haywood’s sixth birthday. That night, her father vanished, taking her voice—and the truth of what really happened—along with him. 

In the autumn of 1974, after eight long years of unsuccessful psychiatrist visits and silence, Iz’s mother packs up the tattered remains of their life, determined to return to Tillings in one last attempt to reclaim Iz’s voice—and piece together the splintered memories of the day her words ran dry. But when the residents of Tillings greet them with a standoffish welcome, it becomes clear that they know something about Iz, and the father she adored, that she does not.

Now, as the island’s annual Yemayá festival prepares to celebrate the ties that bind mothers to children, lovers to each other, and humankind to the sea, Iz must unravel the tangled threads of her own history . . . or risk losing herself—and any chance she may have for a future—to the past.

Paperback: 352 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 9, 2016)

My Review:

What a beautiful book, with a fourteen-year-old narrator that you can't help wanting to hug. Izabella (Iz to her mom) is wounded from the night of her sixth birthday, when her father went away. Iz thinks her strong and angry words were what made him go so she hasn't spoken since. Her mother Zorrie, among the walking wounded herself, can't seem to reach her and brings Iz back to Tillings Island in Rhode Island in hopes of reaching her; getting her to remember what happened and begin to heal and speak again. Although secrets are alluded to in the description, there is not really a big mystery or huge twists in the story. It becomes clear fairly quickly to the reader what happened and we watch as Iz begins to unblock it from her mind. The beauty of the story is in the relationships--especially between the four women--Iz, her mother Zorrie, Grandma Josephine and neighbor Remy. It is the things that tie them together, the love they have for one another, and especially how the three older women work to protect Iz and help her work through her trauma that are the heart of the book. Grandma Jo was my favorite character, the loving crunchy-granola grandmother that everyone would love to have--with her humor, acceptance, and tofu macaroni and cheese--overlooking her penchant for nudity of course. She adds her wisdom and is a bright spot that both Iz and Zoe, and even Remy, desperately need in their lives. Remy is the outspoken older friend that Iz needs, blunt but caring, covering her own issues with sarcasm and bravado. Although distant at first (her own protection from the world), Zorrie grew on me too. I could happily hang out with these strong and well-drawn characters.

Sometimes books tagged as magical realism can be a little 'woo-woo' for me but the magic in What the Waves Know, is wound primarily around the mysticism of Tillings Island and Yemayá--a goddess and the patron saint of women and the ocean according to Santeria and Yoruba beliefs. In the story, the community of Tillings Island is celebrating Yemayá, the Great Mother, through an annual festival with people coming from all over to leave offerings in hopes she will help them find what is missing. Yemayá, a strong and fierce protector, fits with the characters and the island setting and is skillfully woven into the story. As a side note, my interest piqued, I had to do a little research to learn more about Yemayá. About Santeria had this to say:

"Yemaya is the great mother who lives and rules over the seas. Water is essential to life, so without Yemaya, life on earth wouldn't be possible.  Although she's maternal and nurturing, she's also fierce. Her punishments can be terrible when she's outraged, but she's fair minded and forgiving when proper remorse is shown. Yemaya is clever and brave.  When she goes to war on behalf of her children, she wields a machete with expertise and no one can defeat her." 

Image and text from AboutSanteria .com

Tamara Valentine knows how to tell a great story, poignant, hopeful, and ultimately full of love. I wanted the best for these characters, caught up in their lives and the island community. The 350+ pages were over before I knew it (or wanted). What the Waves Know is an immensely pleasurable read and a great book to curl up with. 


Author Notes: Tamara Valentine obtained an M.A. with distinction from Middlebury College and has spent the past fourteen years as a professor in the English Department at Johnson & Wales University. Presently, she lives in Kingston, Rhode Island, with her husband and three children.
Find out more about Tamara at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


There is not a ton of food in What the Waves Know but there certainly is some. Grandma Joe is the adventurer and cook in the family, "borrowing" a tin bucket of sap, tapped from a sugar maple to boil down maple syrup for pancakes, braving bees for fresh honeycomb for Iz's toast, and her self-described, "mean carrot cake and cheese biscuits that melt right over your tongue." Remy is suspicious about Josephine's famous tofu macaroni and cheese (she blends Vermont Cheddar "so sharp it stings your tongue" with whole wheat pasta and tofu crumbles). On the  mainland wharf there are crab cakes, deep-fried clams, crawfish boils, and popcorn shrimp, and the Tillings Island Yemayá Festival features a variety of baked goods and is known for the curried chicken. Remy bakes apple pies for the festival with Iz, Zorrie has Iz get the ingredients for honey chicken, and then there are mentions of ice cream from the local parlor/soda shop as well as tea, coca-cola, and root beer to drink.

For my book-inspired dish, since I am eating wheat free for the time being, baked goods were out. I was considering a curry--maybe with tofu in honor of Grandma Joe, but it was pancakes with maple syrup that won out. With the no-wheat thing, it seemed like a great time to try the Pinterest-famed "2-Ingredient Banana Pancakes" I pinned a while back. I wanted to see how well pancakes made from a medium banana and two eggs would work.

I did add a few extra ingredients--baking powder (as I heard it makes for "fluffier" pancakes), a pinch of salt and cinnamon and a dash of vanilla extract. So I guess these are 6-ingredient pancakes. ;-)

2-ish Ingredient Banana Pancakes with Maple Syrup & Fresh Blueberries
Adapted from The Kitchn
(Makes About 8 small pancakes)

1 medium ripe banana
2 large eggs

+ optional ingredients:
1/8 teaspoon baking powder, for fluffier pancakes 
pinch of salt
dash of vanilla

large pinch of cinnamon 

coconut oil or butter to for pan
maple syrup and fresh blueberries to serve

Mash the peeled banana with a fork (or toss in blender with other ingredients) until no large lumps remain. Add any extra ingredients like baking powder, vanilla, salt, and or cinnamon. 

Whisk eggs together until whites and yolks are completely combined and mix into bananas to form a loose, liquid-y batter. 

Hit pan or griddle over medium heat and add a little butter or coconut oil to prevent sticking. When hot, drop about 2 tablespoons of the batter onto the hot pan. If it doesn't sizzle slightly, turn up heat. 

Cook until the bottom of pancake looks golden brown when you lift a side--about 1 minute or so. The edges should also be looking set but the middle will still be loose. 

Carefully lift the pancake by gently working a thin spatula about halfway underneath the pancake, and carefully turning over to the other side. If any loose batter spills when you turn the pancake, lay the pan cake on top of the spill and move any excess back under the pancake. Cook pancake for another minute or so until it is golden brown on each side--flipping back and forth as needed to get them evenly browned.

Set pancake aside (keep warm) and cook remaining batter/pancakes. 

Serve immediately while warm with maple syrup, fresh blueberries or other favorite toppings.

Notes/Results: Although perhaps not a true pancake, they are pancake-y enough to be pretty darn tasty, especially when covered in real maple syrup and served with fresh blueberries. I was a bit worried they would be fussy to turn with the loose batter but they actually were not that much different or more difficult to flip than a pancake if you make them small and are quick and careful when you turn them. I used the blender for mixing and found that I needed to stir the batter between batches on the griddle to get a consistent quality and thickness. Still, I got eight small decent pancakes out of the mix. I don't make pancakes often but these are really simple to mix up and quite filling. I will happily make them again.

I am sharing this book review and food pairing with Beth Fish Reads: Weekend Cooking Event, 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 "What the Waves Know" 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 learn what other reviewers thought about the book here on the TLC Book Tour Website.



  1. The seafood sounds great but I am a big fan of seafood. However.,,,,pancakes are a true weakness for me. Wow! Now I want that for breakfast.
    I haven't read that book but I like your review. I just finished The Finest Hours. That was good,

  2. Oh these look absolutely beautiful -- such a great thing to know for my GF friends and family.

    I just got a copy of that book; I'll bump it up on my list.

  3. Your 2 Ingredient pancakes look and sound yummy. I can't wait until I can get some bananas to try them. I want to try them myself, but I also think it would be a great treat for my young grandson. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. What a yummy post. Enjoyed hearing all about the book and those pancakes look yummy!

  5. Banana pancakes - great idea for when your bananas get a bit too ripe. Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

  6. Pancakes and blueberries sound like a delicious alternative for Valentine
    Day. But I think I would like some traditional chocolate too.

    best... mae at

  7. My son is 14 so I automatically have a soft spot for the narrator of this book already. :)

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  8. I saw this book and it didn't sound like something I would like, but your review has made me reconsider.


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