Review of Sunshine Soup, Nourishing the Global Soul

Review of Sunshine Soup, Nourishing the Global Soul

Expat women the world over will be able to relate to Sunshine Soup; the disorientation, the frustrations and the anxiety will all be familiar, but Sunshine Soup also explores the positive side of changing countries.


Review

iHubbub Reviewer, Rosalind Brookman (@RoRoBrookman) says that the new experiences, the deep friendships that are born from a shared situation, and the satisfaction that arises from knowing that you have made the move and survived!

Author Jo Parfitt describes herself as an ‘expert expat’ – and her understanding of adapting to an entirely different culture to her own has been brought vividly to life in Sunshine Soup.

Maya Winter is leaving her friends, the delicatessen she runs with her partners and the only life she knows. She’s no longer going to be living in Stamford, UK – she’s relocating with her family to Dubai through her husband Rich’s job as a pilot.

She’s anxious and excited in equal measures; leaving her existing life is scary but it is tempered with the exhilarating fantasy of new possibilities. Once they’ve arrived Maya feels the reality straight away. Rich is away so often with his work that a house is simply somewhere to sleep during his time off – he doesn’t feel the culture shock because he’s not there for long enough at a time to experience it.

Her sons start school immediately and make new friends, and so it’s Maya who is left with the challenge of not only adapting to the heat and the unfamiliar country and its people, but to her change in status as well.

She is devastated to discover the stamp in her passport that states she is unable to work whilst living there, and the story draws you in to her building frustration at being reduced to simply a housewife after her fulfilling job back home. Annie, her housemaid is a treasure, but her eagerness to ensure her new boss doesn’t have to exert herself leaves Maya feeling even more redundant.

Maya eventually finds salvation in two very different ways – she gently takes back her kitchen from Annie and indulges in her passion for cooking, and she meets Barb. Barb is an old hand at finding her feet in a new country, having already done it a myriad of times.

She sweeps Maya up with a friendly, no-nonsense bustle and tries to persuade her to get involved with a host of clubs, meetings and good causes. Through Barb Maya meets the local expat community and begins to build up a social life with women of all nationalities who have all been through the same experience. Here she finds another outlet for her talents that enables her to stretch her wings further than she ever thought would be possible.

Jo Parfitt is able to conjure up the stifling atmosphere of Maya’s initial weeks in Dubai with her well-chosen words; although the idea of having nothing to do except sightsee and shop in the sunshine may seem like paradise to some,  Maya needs more than this to validate her existence, and Parfitt explores her slow-burning dissatisfaction with sensitivity and skill.

The introduction of Barb adds a ray of light to Maya’s plight (although Barb is far from one-dimensional, with a moving history of her own which is hidden beneath her bubbly facade) and other colourful characters add further intrigue.

A ride out into the desert one day with local Hatim gives Barb and Maya an insight into the real Dubai, and Parfitt’s evocative language, describing the beautiful landscape that Hatim loves so much, brings it to life for the reader.

Just as Maya is finding her feet, life, as it always does, throws up more challenges for her. Her husband’s sudden change of mood is unsettling and upsetting, and there is also an unexpected encounter with a figure from her past – can she resist a familiar face in a desert of strangers?

Barb has always immersed herself in the lives of others to try and block out her own pain, but it eventually threatens to overwhelm her, and a conversation with somebody who has also suffered forces her to deal with issues that she has previously kept buried. The additional storylines bring depth to Sunshine Soup; helping to enrich the main characters and make them worth emotionally investing in.

Parfitt is an experienced writer, and amongst her bibliography are several cookbooks. She brings her enthusiasm for food to Sunshine Soup; the story is woven throughout with Maya’s culinary creations; she regularly adds to her delicatessen’s website with delicious English recipes that she has twisted with a taste of Dubai.

If all this leaves you feeling hungry, then the end of the book holds a tasty surprise – 20 of Maya’s recipes are written in full for experimentation!

 

iHubbub Quote

"Not only is this novel perfect for helping soon-to-be expats to understand a little of the challenges they will face, established expats will also find plenty of situations within the book that they can relate to and enjoy from a fresh perspective. Non-expats will just enjoy the cracking read!"

 


Rating

Price: 8
Value: 8
User Friendly: 9