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The Mouse-Proof Kitchen

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  1,183 ratings  ·  219 reviews
A deeply moving debut novel about a couple’s struggle to love and accept their disabled child and keep their family together.

Anna is a planner. So when she discovers she’s pregnant, she prepares for a perfect new life in Provençe, France, with her perfect new baby-to-be. Anna’s partner, the easy-going Tobias, shouldn’t have too much difficulty tagging along—after all, he’s
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published July 2nd 2013 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books (first published April 4th 2013)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
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 ·  1,183 ratings  ·  219 reviews

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Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a believable, heartbreaking read. Who knows what life's gonna throw at us, and how we'll cope. Would we do any better than Anna and Tobias? I doubt it. A really interesting read. ...more
Patrice Hoffman
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I usually have a lot to say or at least general points I like to mention in reviews but this time I feel so all over the place with this novel... I really don't know what to say or how to begin.

The novel begins with Anna and Tobias welcoming their daughter Freya into the world. Right from the beginning it's obvious that there's something wrong with her. While in the ICU of a an English hospital, they are given a vague diagnosis that their child is severely disabled. They at once begin to loathe
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I truly love this book. It made me feel. It made me think. It had me all over the emotional board. I could not stop reading, falling asleep with the Kindle open to the page I was reading.
Anna and Tobias go through a lot of swinging thoughts and emotions. I can understand it. I have a child, also a girl, who was born beautiful. Within her first year she would begin having seizures, at one point they were counted as 80 a day. Later I had custody of my grandson, another beautiful child. Within six
Nancy McKibben
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers who enjoy domestic drama
The Mouse-Proof Kitchen
By Saira Shah

This novel examines every parent’s nightmare (well, one of them - we parents have a lot to worry about): Anna and Tobias’s baby daughter is born with severe disabilities. Anna, a chef, and Tobias, a composer, are ill-prepared - perhaps no one is ever prepared - and conflicted. Although Anna bonds at once with baby Freya, Tobias holds back, afraid to love a child who will only bring them heartbreak.

The couple decides, perhaps not all together maturely, to go fo
Dale Harcombe
Feb 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did I enjoy it? No, in a lot of ways, because I found myself getting angry and outraged at the characters, their words and their actions. Was I involved? Absolutely, from start to finish. It was an emotional roller coaster. Would I have considered stopping reading? Not in this lifetime.
Tobias and Anna are looking forward to the birth of the first child. Anna is a person who liked to have a plan and everything in place. But when she finds out their child, Freya, brought into the world by Caesarea
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
This heart-tugging emotional story told in a memoir-like format is intimately introspective, brutally honest yet deliciously warm with dollops of life-affirming humor. The narrator is Anna, a chef who loves order and this is accomplished by planning out her life dreams. Her partner is Tobias, a charming musician who is more carefree in his approach to life. But they are soon in a spot that stops them in their tracks – daughter Freya is born with profound disabilities. Anna worries what if she do ...more
Mar 31, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
dark humour but delightful novel about a couple who have a disabled child and move to south of france and to a ruin of a farmhouse and the trials of rebuilding a life and pressures of a relationship and a disabled child which the author portrays every well
Karen M
Jul 14, 2020 rated it liked it
This was an unknown author and a somewhat different sort of book for me. I thought it may be a little Joanne Harris which was the appeal , as was the promise of France . The characters were a little flat, and relied on stereotypes - Kerim , fleeing from societal disapproval because of his choices, the 50s bandbox mother with more than smudge of the mommy dearest about her, the French sausage maker ( chocolate is more appealing) , the unbalanced orphaned hippy ... I’d better stop here.
The story
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book from the First Reads program. The book begins when a British couple, Anna and Tobias, are having their first baby. The little girl, Freya, is born with brain damage, and will likely have many severe physical and mental challenges. The new parents are told that their child might never reach typical milestones, like talking, walking, or even recognizing her mother and father. Tobias is adamant that he does not want to raise such a disabled baby, and suggests leaving her at the hosp ...more
Jun 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of literary fiction
I received this as an Advance Reader's Copy (ARC) from, and when I started reading it, I questioned my sanity in requesting it in the first place. Not because it's a terrible book--it's not. Rather, because a woman in her late 30s, six months pregnant for the first time with a much-anticipated daughter should probably not read a story about a woman in her late 30s who just gave birth for the first time to Freya, an unexpectedly severely handicapped baby girl. Anna's despair, frust ...more
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reading this engrossing story put me on a roller coaster of emotions. A young couple, Tobias and Anna, are preparing for the birth of their first child when suddenly their lives turn into a whirlwind of drama, emotion and adventure relayed month by month over the first year of their new daughter’s life. Both Tobias and Anna search for a way to ‘escape’ the emotional burden of caring for their severely disabled but “perfect” daughter. They struggle with a fear of loving her and losing her. The mo ...more
Oct 21, 2013 rated it liked it
It's hard for me to honestly rate and review this book because my granddaughter was born last April with some of the same disabilities as Freya, although fortunately much less severe. I think the author captured the mixed feelings that parents (and grandparents, too) have about a special needs child entering their lives. But there was too much else going on in the book with their move from England to a dilapidated beyond charming house in France. I also found some of the characters a bit unbelie ...more
Kevan Bowkett
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful book that I think anyone would enjoy. The story seems like the landscape of upland Languedoc in which it's set -- variously harsh, bitter, joyful, drenched in life, stormy, sane-and-taking-stock, a bleak desert. The story of Anna, Tobias, and their massively disabled daughter Freya shows us something about love -- at its limits and beyond the limits. The characters are vivid, well-drawn. The images of the country changing throughout the year are beautiful, beautifully-evoked. ...more
Alison Smith
Jul 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read the book because of its intriguing title. The topic is a difficult one - severely disabled babies.
Anna & Tobias move from London to Languedoc, France, with their 6-week old severely disabled baby Freya - a "no-hope, no-future"child. They buy a dilapidated farmhouse on a hillside and try - ineffectually - to put it to rights. She's a professional chef who wants to start a cooking school, but first needs to mouseproof her kitchen against hordes of rodents. A tough, uncompromising
Marija Milošević

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Elyse Rudin
Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
An expectant couple from London decide that after giving birth they will move to the south of France. The baby is born with multiple issues that will drastically affect her development. They move to a dilapidated house in a remote French town. They have a very difficult time dealing with their newborn and each other. I loved the honest portrayal in dealing with a child with major handicaps. The people in the village are wonderful additions to the main characters. Although depressing subject ther ...more
Linda Dickson
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Read. I loved this book. Life seldom turns out as we imagine it will. It certainly took a turn for Anna and Tobias and their new daughter, Freya, whose disabilities changed everything. Learning to cope, adapt, accept and move on through life is a journey for everyone in and around the family. You will be right there with them on the journey to experience the fear, the struggle, the pain and the joy and see how it all works out. You will certa ...more
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I am still not sure what to make of this book. It is well done, but I really wanted to beat the shit out of some of the characters most of the time, which is wrong in my mind. The author shares her own struggles with a disabled child in a fictional way, but any parent or anyone familiar with disabled children will nod along with many of the situations. Mayhap a bit too over the top versions of what could have been more realistic reactions may have given me the feeling of a higher rating.
Jessica (booneybear)
I thought this story had believable characters and genuine emotion. It might have been a bit fluffy at times based upon the subject matter ,but it worked. I was reminded a bit of 'Under the Tuscan Sun' with the supporting cast of characters coming and going. I will look forward to reading more of this talented author in the future. ...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

In Saira Shah's debut novel, The Mouse-Proof Kitchen, Anna and Tobias's plans - to leave London for an idyllic cottage in Provence where Anna can raise Freya while working part time as a chef and Tobias can chase lucrative work as a film music composer - are thrown into disarray when their daughter is born. Unexpectedly, the doctors have told them that Freya has brain malformations that indicate she will have severe cognitive and physical disabilities and neither Anna nor Tobias feel they will b
Ramsay Wood
Aug 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I heard delightful echoes of Candide, Nancy Mitford (*The Blessing*, *Don't Tell Alfred*), even Penelope Fitzgerald (*The Beginning of Spring*) when reading this terrific multi-faceted, tough-love novel. Try to imagine how tricky it is to sustain an over-tone of narrative voice that combines life's utter rip-heart stuff with laughter, but Saira Shah pulls it off trippingly with panache. You don't need me to tell you that today's conventional (and droopingly easier!) tear-stained default is the m ...more
Karen R
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
The more I read, the more this book captured my interest and increased my compassion for the parents of a severely disabled child, Freya. At first thinking each selfish, I sympathized with both Annie and Tobias and the path each chose to survive emotionally, fumbling along in their own way dealing with the constant care and seizures of Freya. Sadly as happens in real life, the nurturing of their relationship often came last. To make their lives even more complicated, they move from London to a c ...more
Feb 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through first reads. Thanks so much! I made it through this book pretty quickly. It was a interesting story. It made me think. As a parent of two young children I just really had a dislike for these two people. But then how can I judge? I have not been in their situation. I really thought these two people were so selfish they have a disabled baby and all they think about is getting rid of her.As the story went on many of the choices they made were just wrong. Morally wrong. ...more
Aug 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Do you ever read a book and think, "This feels too real to be fiction"?

I kept wondering...who does the author know who went through this? Because this must be exactly how it would be.

After I finished, I read the author bio on the back. Turns out, this book was drawn from the author's own experience. Still fiction, but well inspired fiction.

Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was a very uncomfortable read. While well-written, there was just too much crazed angst in too many directions to really care much about anyone by the end. It was refreshing to see such an honest approach to such a painful and difficult topic, but in adding so many distractingly chaotic side-lines, it took away from the core of the story. Wouldn't really recommend to anyone. ...more
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
If you are really interested in French culture and food, then you may like most of this book. There was more French references than I thought necessary. The main character is infuriating. I wanted to reach through the pages and throttle her. The ending didn't really make amends for me. Overall, I don't really think this book is worth reading. ...more
Anna and Tobias move to the French countryside with a disabled newborn they don't want. An uncomfortable perspective on mothering children with disabilities, which kept me angry the whole time. Also a lot on gardening and canning and mouse-proofing, none of which I find interesting. I didn't really enjoy the read or believe the ending. ...more
Hayley Hunter
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
When I read the blurb I thought this book would be predictable. I was wrong. I loved everything about this book, well written and throughly enjoyable. I laughed, I cried.. It had my emotions all over the shop. It made me stop and think about how lucky I am, and see a different view of parents struggling with children's illness and ups and downs. ...more
Jennifer Shaw
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A lot going on in this book. Very real. Oftentimes the characters reactions were so raw and honest that it was hard to like them.
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The Book Nook: Our first book: The Mouseproof Kitchen 2 8 May 12, 2014 01:32AM  

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Writer, reporter, and documentary film maker, Shah is daughter of Afghan author Idries Shah and sibling to Tahir Shah and Safia Shah. She is named after her grandmother, Scottish writer Saira Elizabeth Luiza Shah, who wrote as Morag Murray Abdullah.

Her film credits include Beneath the Veil, Death in Gaza, and Unholy War.

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