Delicious Foods by James Hannaham
(Little, Brown & Company, 2015)
Format: Audio CD (narrated by the author)
From Goodreads: "Darlene, a young widow and mother devastated by the death of her husband, turns to drugs to erase the trauma. In this fog of grief, she is lured with the promise of a great job to a mysterious farm run by a shady company, with disastrous consequences for both her and her eleven-year-old son, Eddie--left behind in a panic-stricken search for her.
DELICIOUS FOODS tells the gripping story of three unforgettable characters: a mother, her son, and the drug that threatens to destroy them. In Darlene's haunted struggle to reunite with Eddie, and in the efforts of both to triumph over those who would enslave them, Hannaham's daring and shape-shifting prose not only infuses their desperate circumstances with grace and humor, but also wrestles with timeless questions of love and freedom."
Did I know what to expect? Nope.
Did I get way more than I was expecting? Oh, heck yeah.
Our prime players here are Darlene, Eddie, and Scotty. Darlene is Eddie's mom. Scotty is...I'll let Scotty be a surprise. You will be surprised. And maybe a little fascinated and terrified.
And you'll laugh. And then Hannaham will stab you right through your sternum while you laugh. With something jagged and rusty.
There is a section of the novel during which young Eddie searches the summer streets of Houston for his missing mother. He starts near the center of my hometown, biking further and further each night, befriending all manner of hookers and night shift workers and random souls offering him mom-hunting advice. Those pawn shops and diners and strip malls are the same ones I've passed, ignoring pedestrians and bike riders and people seeking the shade of bus shelters while I pilot my air conditioned car, listening to audiobooks about eleven year olds networking with people named Giggles and Fat Back.
See? Jagged and rusty.
But don't worry, you don't have come pre-equipped with visuals of the gritty, hot Houston pavement to be stabbed yourself. Just read this book, then go buy a watermelon or a couple of carrots. Or, hey, turn on the news. And don't say I didn't warn you.
Hannaham is a trickster author, and bonus: a great narrator. I loved the way he modulated his voice according to which of his characters was in charge of the story. Scotty's energy, Eddie's dry young tone, and Darlene's love and loss. I originally planned on reading this instead of listening (author-narrators aren't always this strong), but June is Audiobook Month, so I gave the audio a try, and it was the right choice.