Arctic Curry Club by Dani Redd

Moving to the Arctic with her boyfriend seems just like one of those crazy life-changing things a girl should do when she’s in love.

For Maya, the 24-hour darkness, sub-zero temperatures and lack of direction, this is less of an exciting new adventure and more of a combination of crippling loneliness and anxiety.

Determined to prove to her boyfriend that she is more than her ‘dark days’, Maya accepts as job as the camp cook for End of the Road Cabins for polar survival classes and day trips in the snow.

When she’s asked to make a warm and spicy curry, Maya discovers Indian food is sparking memories of growing up in Indian – memories she lost after her mother died when Maya was seven years old.

What I liked: Redd built a cast of sweet but tough characters around Maya. While she is struggling with adapting to the Arctic, with rediscovering her love of Indian cuisine, and learning to cope with the return of strange and confusing memories, they rally around her protectively.

The way Maya processes her anxiety, the support she receives from her family and her new friends, and how she manages all the massive life changes after her move, make Maya a very strong, resilient character that audiences can relate to. Her panic and anxiety can overwhelm her but she’s found methods for coping that bring the terror down a notch so she can function.

‘For my whole life I had been looking for home. But why would that be in a place that I’d left? Perhaps I had to keep moving forward in order to find it…’

Mikkel, Adam, Rita, Jobin and Uma are new people in Maya’s life but they are incredibly kind and thoughtful people that smooth the road ahead for Maya – sometimes by pushing her when she needs to build her momentum and sometimes by offering her a place to unwind, vent or the soft landing we all crave.

What I didn’t like: Some of the descriptions of Maya felt a little unkind. She is described as a pear shaped woman, voluptuous with some weight to lose. My issue with these descriptions is they seemed to be added in arbitrarily and don’t really add to the story. The quote is a great example – Redd describes Maya’s size, but I don’t really understand what she is trying to say here. What does the size of her bum have to do with her height sitting down?

He (Ryan) extended his arm and I nestled into his shoulder. My bum’s so big that sitting down we’re similar heights, and it actually hurt my neck a little, but I was reassured by his warmth and solidity.

A lot of the crueller descriptions are narrated by Maya and seem to reflect her anxiety. As Maya comes into her herself, rediscovers her memories of India, of her mother, and develops her own style of curry for the Arctic Curry Club, a lot of those negative descriptions of her body disappear.

Conclusion: This book was so much more than I expected. It explored India, childhood trauma, mental health, relationships and courage – so much more than I expected from the blurb.

Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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