This is my least favorite cover of the year so far, but not my least favorite book. This was one of those reads that was hard to put down. A mystery, Bohjalian managed to baffle me so that until the very end, I did not know how the mystery would be resolved. Having been disappointed by the endings of a couple of books I have read recently, this was a most satisfying conclusion. I would love to see how Bohjalian maps his plots, because the details here add up to a narrative that is completely believable, and even though, as the reader, I’ve had most of the information necessary to solve the mystery all along, I was surprised by the ending. In a positive way. We know from the start that Annalee Ahlberg went missing from her home while her husband, Warren, a professor at a local college, was at a poetry conference in Iowa City, and her two daughters, Lianna and Paige, were asleep in their rooms, not far from her bedroom. We know that Annalee suffered from somnambulism, but since spending time at a sleep clinic years before, had not had any recent episodes. I believed at various times throughout the book that a couple of completely innocent characters (I later found out) were up to no good. As one can imagine, having been in the house at the time of her disappearance, both daughters felt guilt and remorse for not waking up that night and saving their mother. The worst part for everyone involved was not knowing where she was, what happened to her.
The beauty in this story is that a family can suffer a tremendous trauma, spend time in an awful limbo of pain and remorse, as separate individuals, all while going through the motions of living, until finally, each one in their own way comes out on the other side. Changed, but moving forward.
The recipe I’ve chosen is from a significant day in the life of Ahlberg family. A lot of the food mentioned was prepared food from the local Bartlett General Store, like potato salad and Mexican wraps. I got the sense, however that this was a dish that Annalee actually prepared herself. And, since it’s something I’ve be wanting to make and had already researched some recipes, it was the perfect blend of opportunity and research that made sampling this dish easy. I’ve become interested in curry dishes since reading Eight Flavors where I learned that curry had a history in England that found its way to America before any major Indian/Pakistani migration. A dish called Coronation Chicken was served at a luncheon in 1954 celebrating Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne. It was based on a recipe called Jubilee Chicken that was served for Elizabeth’s grandfather, George V’s celebration of his Silver Jubilee. About as royal as it gets in my house however, is four-legged “Prince George,” who would probably love it, but would get very sick from the mayonnaise.
Curried Chicken Salad
3 C cooked rotisserie chicken cut into bite size chunks
¾ C mayonnaise
2 T dry white wine
⅛ C Major Grey’s chutney
1½ T curry powder
½ tsp salt
¾ C medium-diced celery
¼ C chopped scallions, white part only
For the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, wine, chutney, curry powder, and ½ teaspoon of salt in bowl. Stir until smooth.
Combine the chicken with enough dressing to moisten it well. Add the celery and scallions and mix well. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve on naan with some lettuce or mixed greens.