Wow, this was truly such an experience. This was an absolutely phenomenal anthology which spoke to my soul and heart, lived up to all my expectations. It is most definitely one of my favourites of the year and perhaps of all time, and even may be my favourite short story anthology ever.
This anthology truly ticked all the boxes for me. Each short story was strong and stood on its own (I actually didn’t rate any of the stories below a 3, with the exception of one) while tying together to create a exquisitely cohesive collection. The stories as a whole interweaved food & culture (as well as a myriad of other themes!) in their own way, whether that be subtle or explicit, and I adored it.
I truly loved how each story was interconnected – characters from certain stories pop up in other stories, and other places in Hungry Hearts Row are constantly referenced in different stories. Also, did I mention the gorgeous map of Hungry Hearts Row in the front of the book? *swoons*
There is so much diversity and life brimming from this collection (the amount of PoC rep? YES) and the collection has a whole mix of genres, such as contemporary, magical realism, mystery/thriller, etc. to the extent that I am confident that everyone can find at least one story they love. It is so incredibly bingeable that the only reason I couldn’t devour it (I am deeply sorry for my attempt at a pun) was because I was on vacation when reading this.
I also really have to give credit to the arrangement (as well as the overall editing) of the stories! The order is thoughtful, deliberate and truly makes the whole thing incredibly cohesive, so hats off to Chapman & Richmond for this editing. I’m in genuine awe.
And of course, since I love anthologies so much, I simply had to do a mini review for each story. Do note that I reviewed each story pretty much immediately after I finished, so excuse my rambling! I tried to make it as eloquent and non-rambly as possible.
Rain by Sangu Mandana ★★★★★
Oh my god, this was such a strong opening. Seriously, perfection. The writing was lyrical and gorgeous, in an understated way, and I just hungered for more. Admittedly, this was a tad bit shorter than I would have liked, and had a pretty abrupt ending, but I love the characters and the exploration of grief and the incorporation of food in here, of course. This was really the perfect story to kick off the anthology and to introduce us to Hungry Hearts Row.
Kings and Queens by Elsie Chapman ★★★☆☆ (3.5)
Wow, this short story really was something. I was pretty confused by a bunch of things here and had to flip back pages multiple times to get the gist of things. This is a dark, deeply chilling story and the last words freaked me out. The family relationships were great and the depiction of gangs was really interesting, though it was a little shocking to see the darker aspects of Hungry Hearts Row being introduced so early.
The Grand Ishq Adventure by Sandhya Menon ★★★☆☆
This was such a cute story, and I loved the concept of going on a food adventure! (You know, I might have to try that one day). The writing was cute but did have the tendency to read a bit juvenile. The main kicker for me was that this was so predictable for me. I predicted how it was gonna end within 5 pages, and had my suspicions confirmed throughout the story, which was really disappointing. It makes sense, but still. Another cute story from Sandhya Menon to balance out the darkness of the previous story!
Sugar & Spice by Rin Chupeco ★★★☆☆
A solid short story, but I found nothing particularly memorable about this one, honestly. I loved how angry women & the ending was chilling. The Filipino rep was interesting but the second point of view was a little jarring for my taste.
Moments to Return by Adi Alsaid ★★☆☆☆
An interesting, cute story, but it wasn’t particularly compelling for me. I appreciate the intent & the theme of human connection, but this one felt lacking.
The Slender One by Caroline Tung Richmond ★★★★★
This was such a great short story, and I enjoyed it immensely. I loved the incorporation of Chinese culture, the food, and the mixture of coming of age themes with the ghost concepts. I liked how some of the racism towards the Chinese was touched on (which is frankly, not really talked about) and the coming of age themes were both fantastically done & deeply relatable. Also, that build up to the romance and the incorporation of family? Perfection.
Gimme Some Sugar by Jay Coles ★★★☆☆ (3.5)
Truly such a poignant story. I loved the competition and the main character was like-able and compelling, and the food seems so great! However, I just truly couldn’t get into the writing and felt a big disconnect. Yes, the ending was predictable, but it was really so satisfying.
The Missing Ingredient by Rebecca Roanhorse ★★★★☆
Definitely one of the darker stories in the collection. This was such an interesting concept, and was super interesting to see it play out. The story had so many twists and turns that I had to keep flipping the pages, and I’m still reeling from the ending, which truly earned that additional half star.
Hearts à la Carte by Karuna Riazi ★★★☆☆ (3.5)
This was a really cool story with an interesting premise and weaved food in really well. I appreciated how certain classic tropes were subverted here. I did feel a bit of an emotional punch at times, but for the most part, I didn’t connect to this story much as I had hoped and which made something feel missing for me.
Bloom by Phoebe North ★★★★☆
I enjoyed this so much more than I thought I was going to, which was great! I loved the Jewish representation and that this was more “quiet YA”. I really enjoyed the main character and felt her to be pretty compelling, and the romance was really interesting to follow. Also, I really want a bagel now.
A Bountiful Film by S.K Ali ★★★☆☆
I have read & really enjoyed Ali’s novels (especially her sophomore novel, Love From A to Z), so I was really looking forward to this! I thought it was interesting that this featured someone who had just moved into hungry hearts row, and the film aspect certainly was intriguing! I really liked the female friendship aspect and the mystery was also pretty interesting, but this is probably one of the weaker ones in the anthology, personally.
Side World by Sara Farizan ★★★★☆ (4.75)
Such a cute story! I really liked the MC and I was really interested in her and her journey. The romance was so cute and truly made me so happy. I enjoyed how it touched upon gentrification and the emotional journey did make me flip the pages.
Panadería ~ Pastelería by Anna-Marie McLemore ★★★★☆ (4.5)
I was so highly anticipating this one, because the main character here appeared in so many stories that I was incredibly interested to see hers! I think this was a really lovely and the best story to conclude with, and the descriptions of food and desserts were perfection. I was worried that McLemore’s signature purple prose would hinder my enjoyment of the story, but it was, to me, watered down here, which helped me like it more. The diversity was lovely to see, but I do think this could have gotten a higher rating if my expectations weren’t as high.
Have you read Hungry Hearts, and if so, what did you think of it? Are you interested in this book? What is your favourite short-story anthology, and what anthologies would you recommend to me? What was your most recent 5-star read? I would love to know in the comments.