Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Hanna Who Fell from the Sky" by Christopher Meades, Served with a Recipe for (Non-Dairy) Strawberry Swirl Ice Cream (+ A Book Giveaway!)

I am happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Hanna Who Fell from the Sky, a new novel by Christopher Meades. I'm pairing my book review with a recipe for vegan Strawberry Swirl Ice Cream--perfect if it's humid and warm and not at all fall-like where you live too. There's also a giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book at the bottom of the post.

Publisher's Blurb:

From highly acclaimed, award-winning author Christopher Meades comes a magical, provocative tale of forbidden love and one girl’s struggle for liberation 

Hanna has never been outside her secluded community of Clearhaven. She has never questioned why her father has four wives or why she has fourteen brothers and sisters. And in only one week, on her eighteenth birthday, Hanna will follow tradition and become the fifth wife of a man more than twice her age.

But just days before the wedding, Hanna meets Daniel, an enigmatic stranger who challenges her to question her fate and to follow her own will. Then her mother tells her a secret—one that could grant Hanna the freedom she’s known only in her dreams. As her world unravels around her, Hanna must decide whether she was really meant for something greater than the claustrophobic world of Clearhaven. But can she abandon her beloved younger sister and the only home she’s ever known? Or is there another option—one too fantastical to believe?

With lush, evocative prose, Christopher Meades takes readers on an emotional journey into a fascinating, unknown world—and, along the way, brilliantly illuminates complexities of faith, identity and how our origins shape who we are.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Park Row Books (September 26, 2017)

My Review:

Hanna Who Fell from the Sky drew me in with its subject matter--a young girl who has spent her life in a polygamous sect, who is about to turn eighteen and will be the fifth wife of her father's friend who is more than twice her age. I am fascinated by cults and Hanna's community of Clearhaven has all of the markings of one. The families are all polygamists, the community is remote, insulated and lead by Brother Paul, a prophet who "The Creator" speaks to/through. Young girls are married off to much older men, and young men are winnowed out and sent away in order to make the numbers work for the older men to have multiple wives. There are nineteen in Hanna's family and she's the eldest and the caretaker of her siblings--especially her younger sister who has a twisted spine. Hanna is a great character--smart, strong, beautiful, and loving so the "creep" factor is pretty high with all men in the community who would like to have her as one of their wives. When her Brother Paul blessed pairing is announced ten days before the wedding will take place, Hanna is resigned to her fate and role but then she meets Daniel, nineteen, and back in the Clearhaven community with his family, and she begins to question what she has been led to believe.

The book is unique as it's not just a coming-of-age story, but it has a strong core of magical realism woven in. I like magical realism, unless it gets to be too much "woo-woo" and I have mixed feelings about it here. In much of the book it seemed more of a background element--part of a story or secret about Hanna's past and with the author's  descriptive writing, I felt that it enhanced the storytelling and made the book different and special. Towards the end of the book, it leaned more into the woo-woo side and I felt it overtook the story briefly and thus took away a bit from it. Still, I was very much into Hanna's fate and that of the other characters, and the book kept me absorbed in finding out what would happen. Just know that if you aren't a fan of magical realism, you may struggle with it at times here. Christopher Meades's notes at the end of the book tell the tale of how he took a short story he created on a whim and then years later slowly re-wrote it after suffering a traumatic brain injury and three years of terrible concussion symptoms. He spent an hour a day (all he could bear) reworking the novella into this book and feels that Hanna's story helped him stay sane and get well again. His afterward touched me much like Hanna Who Fell from the Sky did and I look forward to reading more from him. 

(If you have a U.S. mailing address, stop enter for a chance to win a copy of this book at the end of the post.)


Author Notes: Christopher Meades is the author of three previous novels, including The Last Hiccup, which won the 2013 Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction. In addition, Meades’s work has appeared in several literary journals including The Potomac Review and The Fiddlehead. He lives in British Columbia, Canada, with his family.

Connect with Christopher via his website, Facebook & Twitter 


Food Inspiration:

Hanna's family is quite poor so there is not a lot of great food inspiration in Hanna Who Fell from the Sky, but there is food and drink mentioned including  moonshine, stew, barley and string beans, a birthday cake that was more like pumpkin bread or a date loaf with frosting, the smell of tea leaves and oranges, a salad made of spinach, strawberries, almonds, and cucumbers, wild berries, homemade wine from grapes, sandwiches, orange juice, bread rolls and fruit, a soup/stew of tomatoes and lentils, sweet bread and the town marketplace that's full of fruit, vegetables, spices and grains. There were meat shanks, taffy, oats, honey, homemade puddings and yogurt, roast, turkey, juice, tea and an assortment of cookies after church, porridge, ice pops, cabbage, bread, milk, a bakery window full of pastries and cakes and a restaurant dinner with chicken in sauce, assorted green vegetables, and potato triangles with herbs. 

Since most of the food was basic and usually lacking for a large family of nineteen, I decided to go with the ice cream that Hanna and her mother Kara have at the village marketplace since it is a treat they rarely get. In the scene, Kara chooses vanilla with toffee flakes and Hanna picks strawberry--both in a cup. I decided to make a strawberry ice cream, going with a vegan recipe I had pinned from The Kitchn that is made with coconut milk and has strawberry sauce streamed in as it is processing in the ice cream maker. I don't usually add corn starch to my vegan ice creams (or in my homemade ice creams in general) but since it is supposed to make it creamier, I wanted to give it a try. 

I kept the recipe pretty much as written--other than adding vanilla paste instead of a vanilla bean and at the recipe author's suggestion, saving out some of the fresh strawberry sauce to swirl in once the ice cream is finished, right before freezing to make it more vibrant.  

Vegan Strawberry Swirl Ice Cream
From The
(Serves 4)

2 (15-oz) cans full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup agave nectar or sweetener of choice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 vanilla bean, split (I used vanilla paste)
1 pint (2 cups) strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/4 cup natural cane sugar 

Shake the cans of coconut milk thoroughly before opening to combine the liquid and solids.Reserve 1/2 cup of the coconut milk and set it aside. Combine the remaining coconut milk, agave, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat until all of the ingredients are combined smoothly and the mixture is uniformly warmed, about 2 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the reserved 1/2 cup coconut milk with the cornstarch until smooth and well-combined. Stir it into the warm coconut milk base. Scrape the vanilla bean into the mixture and slip in the pod as well--or add vanilla extract or paste. Cook mixture over medium heat until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 6 to 8 minutes. Do not to allow the mixture to boil.

Remove mixture from the heat, discard the vanilla bean pod, and pour the coconut base into a separate bowl. Cool on the counter for 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 to 5 hours as you need the base to be very cold before you process it in the ice cream machine.

While the base is cooling, make the strawberry sauce: Mash the quartered strawberries down in a medium saucepan and sprinkle in the sugar. Bring it to a low boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the berries start to lose their shape and become juicy. Remove berries from the heat, transfer to a bowl, and cool on the counter for 30 minutes. Once slightly cool, blend in a food processor or blender, or with an immersion blender, for just a few seconds until a thick sauce forms. Set aside or place in fridge to finish cooling.

Following the manufacturer's instructions, churn the coconut ice cream base in your ice cream machine. When it has thickened to a soft-serve ice cream consistency, slowly ladle all but about 1/4 cup of the strawberry sauce into the ice cream maker as it runs so the sauce gets incorporated into the ice cream base. Spread the ice cream into a large loaf pan, drizzle on the reserved strawberry sauce and swirl it into the ice cream.

Cover with plastic wrap and and freeze for a few hours (or overnight) until the ice cream has firmed up completely. Serve and enjoy!

Notes/Results:  Creamy and full of fresh strawberry flavor, this is a tasty strawberry ice cream. I will say that the coconut flavor does come through--which I like because I think it pairs well with the strawberries, but my coconut-hating brother would probably not like it at all. So be warned you likely can't sneak this one without someone figuring out it's coconut milk. Texture-wise it's a bit more dense than my normal dairy-free ice cream but there was not that much of a difference. I may try it without the cornstarch next time. I also need to work on my swirling technique and do it in between the layers of ice cream in the loaf pan instead of on top because when I scooped, my swirls ended up more inside the scoops than outside--so not as visually dynamic. I had about 2 1/2 cups of fresh strawberries so I kept some out of the ice cream and served it on top which I think looks pretty and it tasted great too. Very refreshing on a humid day, I would make this again.

I am sharing this book and food pairing with Novel Foods #31, an event celebrating food inspired by the written word and hosted by my friend Simona at Briciole. This deadline for this round of Novel Food ends Thursday, March 23rd.

I'm also linking this post up to 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 "Hanna Who Fell From the Sky" 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.

***Book Giveaway***
The publisher is generously providing a copy of Hanna Who Fell From the Sky to give away (U.S. addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me your favorite flavor of ice cream or telling me why you'd like to win a copy of "Hanna Who Fell From the Sky."

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Publisher Park Row Books/Harlequin Books (@HarlequinBooks)
and/or ChristopherMeades (@ChrisMeades). (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow these accounts.)

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Friday, October 6th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck!  


  1. Hi Deb! My favorite ice cream has been the seasonal hand churned flavors Jacqueline used to make when she had more free time. ��

    However, I bet this vegan Strawberry Swirl Ice Cream would be a contender if I could only taste it. Does the winner get the book and a scoop?

    Love your posts!

  2. It is a warm day here so your ice cream recipe is particularly appealing at the moment!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  3. "Tell me your favorite flavor of ice cream or tell me why you'd like to win a copy of 'Hanna Who Fell From the Sky.'" Well, I like mocha (although the above pictures look incredible), and the book sounds interesting, even though the whole polygamy thing sounds a bit extreme!

  4. I've put off reading this because of the magical realism part. That vegan ice cream recipe looks good. I'm sending the link to my vegan niece.

  5. What an interesting book! I also like the ice cream. I have never tried to make a non-dairy one but now that I am much more comfortable with using coconut milk, I would like to give it a try. Strawberries do give a vibrant color to it. Thank you so much for your contribution to Novel Food :)

  6. Mmmmm! I love the sound of coconut-strawberry ice cream! A little pineapple sauce on top for pina colada flavor? Usually my favorite flavor of ice cream is plain old chocolate chip, but this summer I branched out and tried different flavors whenever I got a cone somewhere, so my current favorite is actually black raspberry with chocolate chunks.

  7. Very interesting book and the recipe sounds rich and delicious

  8. I love vanilla/macademia liquor(?) ice cream with really fresh macadamia nut chips. Harder to find since that ice cream parlor by UH closed down.


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