Member Reviews

Steeped with loss and deep humanity, SLOW NOODLES: A Cambodian Memoir of Love, Loss, and Family Recipes tells Chantha Nguon’s harrowing story of her life in Cambodia. Her recipes tell a story of her middle-class upbringing and the devastating transition from prosperity to poverty under Pol Pot’s oppressive communist regime.

This unique blend of storytelling through food is a love letter to Nguon’s late mother as well as a tribute to the power food has on the human spirit. The book is infused with recipes that carried Nguon through life in refugee camps where hunger and illness were abundant, and comforting foods she longed for from the life she once knew.

When life as she knew it was stripped away in war-torn Cambodia, food was the thread that continued to tie her to her family history and identity. The term slow noodles is one that I will keep coming back to as it serves as a reminder that all good things take time.

With fortitude and grit, Nguon was able to create meaningful change in the village of her youth. The book concludes with a note from Nguon’s daughter which added additional depth to the story. I can’t wait to try many of these recipes which will undoubtedly add to the reading experience.

READ THIS IF YOU:
Want a story that will continue to life in your heart and your kitchen
Desire to learn more about another culture
Have nostalgic meals that feel like a balm to your soul

Many thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin for an electronic ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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In her prologue to this beautiful memoir and cookbook, the author shares a Cambodian proverb: “Men are gold: women are cloth.” She goes on to say: “I believe the saying misjudges so much, including the value of fabric. Cloth can be delicate, yes; but it can also be strong and light, tough and resilient.”

I cannot think of a better metaphor to capture the confessional, wise, and confident voice of Chantha Nguon in this inspiring, tragic, and life-affirming book that also manages to capture the smells, taste, and joy of cooking some of the author’s most prized (and memory-filled) dishes. . Food is about nourishment of the body, yes, but it’s also about connecting with others. Through this book, I feel that’s I’ve had the great privilege to sit down and cook with someone who had the warmth, trust, and generosity to share her stories and her love of Cambodian cooking with me.

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Slow Noodles by Chantha Nguon is a memoir about the author’s escape from the Khmer Rouge genocide, her time at a refugee camp, and her life after the camp. She loses her home and family during this time and tries to stay connected to her culture through her mother’s recipes, which she shares in this book.

Overall, this was a very interesting read, however it was very sad. The author is so resilient and it blew my mind the things that she went through. I haven’t made any of the recipes but I would like to!

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for granting me an advanced copy of the eBook in return for an honest review. This book will be published in February 2024.

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Prepare to be transported through time and taste with 'Slow Noodles,' where every page is a recipe for resilience and reinvention.…

Book Information

Slow Noodles: A Cambodian Memoir of Love, Loss, and Family Recipes by Chantha Nguon is a 304-page memoir with a planned publication date of February 20, 2024. Thank you to Algonquin Books for providing me with an advance reader copy of this book for review.

Summary

In ‘Slow Noodles’, Chantha Nguon shares her life as a Cambodian refugee who lost everything due to the devastating actions of the dictator Pol Pot in the 1970s. Despite the loss of her home, family, and country, Nguon holds onto the memories of her mother's kitchen and the flavors of the dishes she once made.

My Thoughts

‘Slow Noodles’ by Chantha Nguon is an exceptionally well-written memoir that unfolds as a kaleidoscope of experiences, traversing a life most could hardly imagine. The journey takes us from a state of affluence to the harsh realms of poverty and adversity, and back again—a testament to the author's incredible tale of resilience and reinvention. 'Slow Noodles' is a literary feast—where the drama is as rich as the recipes, and every chapter is a potential viral moment for the soul.

The story serves as a vivid illustration of how life shapes individuals, offering a compelling perspective on the nurture side of the nature/nurture debate. Chantha Nguon's evolution from a carefree child to a remarkable woman reflects her strength, which she uses not only to overcome her own challenges but also to uplift the futures of those around her.

The memories shared in the book elicit a range of emotions—touching, joyous, heartbreaking, heartwarming, alarming, shocking, and gut-wrenching. These experiences provide readers with a profound connection to the author's journey, making the narrative both relatable and impactful.

What sets ‘Slow Noodles’ apart is its insightful exploration of the region's history. The author imparts firsthand and unfiltered knowledge, going beyond mere facts and dates. The narrative delves into the implications of historical events, allowing readers to see them through the eyes of someone who lived through these transformative moments. This human aspect ensures that the essence of history is not lost, adding depth and resonance to the storytelling.

A unique aspect of the book is the inclusion of recipes, which not only serve as a differentiator but also play a crucial role in advancing the narrative. Each recipe holds significance, contributing to the author's journey and telling a story of its own. Nguon doesn't just share recipes; she dishes out life lessons, one unforgettable flavor at a time. This culinary element adds a flavorful dimension to the book, enticing readers to not only savor the words but also try their hand at the delectable dishes described within the pages.

Recommendation

‘Slow Noodles’ is a captivating and multifaceted memoir that seamlessly weaves personal and historical narratives. Chantha Nguon's story, accompanied by poignant memories and enticing recipes, creates a compelling tapestry that is both enlightening and emotionally resonant. Recommended.

Rating

4 Cambodian Stars

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This is a fascinating hybrid memoir and cookbook and the author's voice is a powerful and indomitable one, and the recipes are quite exciting and well written. The author's story is a difficult one, but she tells it with such care and spirit that this reader at least had a hard time putting the book down. My thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for the opportunity to read an ARC copy.

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As a memoir of someone who came of age in southeast Asia amidst the upheavals of the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge and the and the Cambodian genocide, Chantha Nguon’s personal tale is full of memories that are both touching, and also gut-wrenching moments that a reader will feel deep to their core. Above all though, it’s an incredible tale of resilience and reinvention that I couldn’t tear myself away from.

I particularly appreciated Nguon’s choice to structure this telling of her life story around the recipes that have nourished her over the years in a variety of ways. It provided an extra dimension that I haven’t often encountered in other memoirs. Not only could I see and hear her world over the passing years, but I often felt I was able to taste and smell it as well - even though I know for a fact that many of the described flavors and scents are quite unfamiliar to me. Also, many of the dishes were little cultural lessons in their own right, which I quite enjoyed as someone whose knowledge of the region is definitely lacking.

I ended up devouring “Slow Noodles” (pun initially unintended) within the span of just one weekend. And now that I’ve finished it, I definitely have firm plans to try and get this inspirational and immersive read on the shelves of both my public library and the academic library I work at - all while recommending it to others when the opportunity arises.

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