A novel with recipes pokes pleasurable at church politics

“Search,” by Michelle Huneven (Penguin Push)

Whoever stated that college politics are vicious mainly because the stakes are so minimal most likely by no means served on a ministerial research committee.

Michelle Huneven’s delightful new novel “Search” reveals the internal workings of just these types of a committee. It usually takes the type of a comic memoir-with-recipes by a cafe critic and food stuff author enlisted to assist select a senior minister of her progressive Unitarian Universalist congregation in Southern California.

The prospect comes just when Dana Potowski is despairing of at any time acquiring a subject for her future reserve. Then it takes place to her that the yearlong lookup is possible to produce plenty of content for her to incorporate to the “recent flurry of publications about intensive 12-thirty day period undertakings: a calendar year of looking through only the Bible a yr owning sex each individual day.”

But is it moral? She decides that by the time the e-book is prepared to be released, no one will genuinely care and moreover, she will alter names and identifying particulars. So commences her surreptitious notice-having as the committee— whose do the job is strictly private — starts its limitless rounds of conferences and interviews with candidates across the nation. The comic twist is that the shenanigans of some of the principals, the two committee members and clergy, are as twisted and odd as what we have arrive to be expecting on Wall Road or in Washington — and the guide results in being a best seller.

Followers of Huneven’s 4 earlier novels will identify acquainted themes in “Search,” together with alcoholism, recovery and the restorative ability of gardening, cooking and a non secular observe. That does not preserve her fictional change moi from poking enjoyable at the liberal pieties of the Unitarian denomination, where by expert services could possibly incorporate “drumming and bowing to the 4 directions and rattling of rain sticks” and just one of the committee associates is a polyamorous mixologist who performs Dana’s minimum most loved instrument, handbells.

Like her wry and considerate narrator, Huneven has worked as a foods writer (for LA Weekly and the Los Angeles Instances) and put in time in seminary. In composing about both subject matter — whether or not it is the fried eggrolls at Dana’s most loved Vietnamese restaurant or the spiritual epiphany that attracts her again to church — Huneven has whole command of her materials.

At moments the novel, at more than 350 webpages devoid of the recipes, feels a little bit saggy. A pair plot products go nowhere, such as Dana’s attraction to a fellow committee member. But Huneven is these types of a intelligent and humorous author that readers are likely to give her a pass for deciding on abundance in excess of austerity.

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