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Love & Saffron
Cover of Love & Saffron
Love & Saffron
A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love
by Kim Fay
Borrow Borrow
The Instant National Bestseller and #1 Indie Next Pick

In the vein of the classic 84, Charing Cross Road, this witty and tender novel follows two women in 1960s America as they discover that food really does connect us all, and that friendship and laughter are the best medicine.
When twenty-seven-year-old Joan Bergstrom sends a fan letter—as well as a gift of saffron—to fifty-nine-year-old Imogen Fortier, a life-changing friendship begins. Joan lives in Los Angeles and is just starting out as a writer for the newspaper food pages. Imogen lives on Camano Island outside Seattle, writing a monthly column for a Pacific Northwest magazine, and while she can hunt elk and dig for clams, she’s never tasted fresh garlic—exotic fare in the Northwest of the sixties. As the two women commune through their letters, they build a closeness that sustains them through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the unexpected in their own lives.
 
Food and a good life—they can’t be separated. It is a discovery the women share, not only with each other, but with the men in their lives. Because of her correspondence with Joan, Imogen’s decades-long marriage blossoms into something new and exciting, and in turn, Joan learns that true love does not always come in the form we expect it to. Into this beautiful, intimate world comes the ultimate test of Joan and Imogen’s friendship—a test that summons their unconditional trust in each other.
 
A brief respite from our chaotic world, Love & Saffron is a gem of a novel, a reminder that food and friendship are the antidote to most any heartache, and that human connection will always be worth creating.
The Instant National Bestseller and #1 Indie Next Pick

In the vein of the classic 84, Charing Cross Road, this witty and tender novel follows two women in 1960s America as they discover that food really does connect us all, and that friendship and laughter are the best medicine.
When twenty-seven-year-old Joan Bergstrom sends a fan letter—as well as a gift of saffron—to fifty-nine-year-old Imogen Fortier, a life-changing friendship begins. Joan lives in Los Angeles and is just starting out as a writer for the newspaper food pages. Imogen lives on Camano Island outside Seattle, writing a monthly column for a Pacific Northwest magazine, and while she can hunt elk and dig for clams, she’s never tasted fresh garlic—exotic fare in the Northwest of the sixties. As the two women commune through their letters, they build a closeness that sustains them through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the unexpected in their own lives.
 
Food and a good life—they can’t be separated. It is a discovery the women share, not only with each other, but with the men in their lives. Because of her correspondence with Joan, Imogen’s decades-long marriage blossoms into something new and exciting, and in turn, Joan learns that true love does not always come in the form we expect it to. Into this beautiful, intimate world comes the ultimate test of Joan and Imogen’s friendship—a test that summons their unconditional trust in each other.
 
A brief respite from our chaotic world, Love & Saffron is a gem of a novel, a reminder that food and friendship are the antidote to most any heartache, and that human connection will always be worth creating.
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Excerpts-
  • From the cover October 8, 1962
    Los Angeles, Calif.

    Dear Mrs. Fortier,

    I hope this letter finds you well. For that matter, I hope it finds you, since I am sending it to Northwest Home & Life magazine, where I so enjoyed your recent tale about digging for clams. I laughed out loud at your smug heron and briny crown of kelp. I admire women who do not care if they look foolish in front of others, even though I am not one of them.

    I am a dedicated reader of "Letter from the Island," and I send my congratulations for your ten-year anniversary as its author. I have known it from the beginning when I was seventeen. Mother loves her magazine subscriptions, and every month, as soon as they arrive, she folds back the pages to her favorite columns. The first two she reads are always yours and Gladys Taber's "Butternut Wisdom" in Family Circle. I prefer yours. It makes me feel like I am having a conversation with a good friend, and your enthusiasm for life has taught me to be more aware of my own world around me, and especially the outdoors. Believe it or not, Los Angeles has much to offer in the way of natural beauty if you pay close attention.

    I notice you have written about mussels a few times, but you only ever mention cooking clams. I recently learned a creative mussel recipe from a Frenchwoman I met on a voyage to the Far East. I am enclosing a packet of saffron from that voyage. It is my small way of thanking you for "Letter from the Island."

    For steamed mussels, in a stockpot add a generous pinch of saffron, coarsely chopped garlic, and parsley to a half cup melted butter. The red enamel pot you mentioned in your column about racing Dungeness crabs, the one with the pockmark from your niece's Red Ryder BB gun, will do perfectly. If you can't find fresh garlic, shallots can be substituted, but in my opinion, without fresh garlic the dish isn't worth making. The Frenchwoman told me the addition of a cup or so of white wine is considered standard for this broth, but she prefers vermouth. I agree with her. It gives the dish a crisp, botanical flavor, and I can save my Chablis for drinking with my meal.

    Your not-so-secret admirer,
    Miss Joan Bergstrom



    FROM THE DESK OF MRS. IMOGEN FORTIER

    October 12, 1962
    Camano Island, Wash.

    Dear Miss Bergstrom,

    Greetings from the eye of the storm. Typhoon Freda churned to life a few days ago in the far reaches of the Pacific and got it into her stormy head to roar in our direction. I wonder, is she still a typhoon once she lands on American shores? Meteorological semantics isn't my area of expertise, and my trusty Britannicas are safely hunkered down on the shelves at home. Francis and I came out to the cabin for the Columbus Day weekend to pick mussels and try the saffron you so thoughtfully sent. Instead, we've been battening our hatches.

    Apologies for the tottery penmanship. I didn't bring my typewriter with me since my intention was to write to you next week after I made your recipe with great success. Not only do I not mind looking foolish, I'm an optimist! Unfortunately, we didn't collect a single mussel, and I'm writing by the light of a kerosene lantern because the power has gone out.

    I'm writing rather than pacing because my pacing was driving Francis crazy. He finally told me to do something to take my mind off the storm. Easier said than done. This afternoon the sky turned black and filled with spectral yellow streaks, and now it feels like our wood-clad cabin will wash away at any minute. This isn't an unreasonable fear, considering it's old wartime housing that we had floated to its present location four years ago on a barge...
About the Author-
  • Born in Seattle and raised throughout the Pacific Northwest, Kim Fay lived in Vietnam for four years and still travels to Southeast Asia frequently. A former bookseller, she is the author of Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam, winner of the World Gourmand Cookbook Awards’ Best Asian Cuisine Book in the United States, and The Map of Lost Memories, an Edgar Award finalist for Best First Novel. She is also the creator/editor of a series of guidebooks on Southeast Asia. Fay now lives in Los Angeles.
     
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Narrators Kimberly Farr and Cassandra Campbell perform most of this epistolary novel, and they couldn't be better. Imogen's column in Seattle's NORTHWEST HOME & LIFE inspires Joan in L.A. to send a fan letter, along with a packet of saffron from her travels. In time, their correspondence grows into a close friendship. Farr gives Imogen a genial gentility. We hear a cheerful smile behind her words. Campbell captures Joan's youth and enthusiasm, as well as her genuine delight whenever she hears from Imogen. Mark Bramhall depicts Imogen's husband, Francis, as a soft-spoken man. Maggie Meg Reed handles the narration in Part II of the novel. Filled with friendship, love, and deep emotions, this audiobook is comfort food for difficult times. S.J.H. � AudioFile 2022, Portland, Maine
  • Library Journal

    Starred review from June 1, 2022

    When 27-year-old Joan pens a letter to 59-year-old Imogen, in Fay's (The Map of Lost Memories) charming epistolary novel, food and writing become the basis of a lifelong friendship. Set in the 1960s, the women live in a time when the United States is becoming more interested in the cuisines of the world and both are eager to try them all. Each trope, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is executed so skillfully that listeners will feel they've been comfortingly immersed in this friendship for years rather than a mere four hours. There are points where the food pronunciations were a bit jarring, but this only adds to the authentic feeling of Joan and Imogen discovering--and sharing--dishes with each other that teach them to move beyond their customary palates. VERDICT The two main narrators are so evenly matched that their conversation is a pure pleasure to experience. Listeners will truly feel the warmth of Joan and Imogen's growing bond, and though the plot may take listeners through familiar beats, they will enjoy every moment of the journey.--Matthew Galloway

    Copyright 2022 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Novel of Friendship, Food, and Love
Kim Fay
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