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Simple Recipes

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  414 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and the City of Vancouver Book Award, and a Regional Finalist for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book

Longing, familiarity, and hope suffuse these stories as they mine the charged territory of relationships – subtly weaving in conflicts between generations and cultures. Madeleine Thien’s characters in some way want to
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 23rd 2002 by McClelland & Stewart (first published April 10th 2001)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  414 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fans of short stories will find nothing but delight in this book. This woman is an incredible writer and this book itself was one of her first. So visual, so connected with feelings, so in tune with empathy, these stories deal with family and are simple, unique, and moving.
This collection of stories came at a good time for me. It's filled with families, and more importantly, filled with the failed expectations of families. The stories are often people who are fighting with disappointment. For one reason or another life didn't turn out how they had imagined it. To me that was what really hit home, they way you can be so upset when things don't work out in that idyllic way you imagine they should.
The writing, I thought, was great and it was filled with candid
Rena Graham
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I met Madeleine for a manuscript review and had already started reading this book. She's currently Writer in Residence at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. When I told her I was working on a series of short stories, she said she was still quite proud of this first book - her only book of short stories to date. It's a wonderful read and I understood her critique of my work much more after reading hers. She has such a depth of expression for the the complexity of human relationships and adds ...more
When I read this, all of her descriptions and prose create these images of places and people I've feel I've met before. Something about thiens writing fills me with this hope for the future and peace with the past.
Nikki Reads A Lot
I think by starting with Do Not Say We Have Nothing I have spoiled myself. I think Thien's characters are too complex for short stories... I have a hard time appreciating these stories individually, despite feeling the overarching themes of family, trauma, grief and regret quite poignantly.
Alice Rose
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Lovely collection of short stories exploring families, especially on the relationships betweent children and parents. My favourite was "A Map of This City."
Kar Wai Ng
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best short story collections I've read!
May 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: coming-of-age
In a burst of sudden insights the blurb named exactly the theme of this short stories collection: family betrayal. I like how they flow. Maybe the author's melancholic style suits short stories more than novels.
I should have known by the Alice Munro blurb that this book would be too boring for me. sorry.
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
A Map of the City 4.5/5

Overall 4/5

This Short Story Collection is 7 stories that are each written beautifully with care. Stores that are relatable and heart breaking. My chest is so heavy after finishing it, especially the last story. Madeline Thein has such a way with words and I haven't even read her most recent work, Do Not Say We Nothing. Easily one of my new favourite Canadian authors.
Kate Henderson
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A deft handling of past, present and place playing large roles in two generations of the immigrant experience. A Map of the City is heart-breaking. A lead-in to Do Not Say We Have Nothing.
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book of short stories is all about family but always from the child's perspective. It explores the unequal relationship where parents have such power and influence and children have such need.
Matthew White Ellis
I loved this collection of short stories. The opening story and the titular story “Simple Recipes” is about a girl who begins to see the dimensions of what was once an uncomplicated, unconditional love between her and her father. Seeing this relationship breakdown was painful and I felt genuinely affected by this and each story in the collection.
My only complaint is that the main characters, the speakers, seemed to be observers more often than active participants. However, the perspectives of
Jerry Pogan
Dec 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An exceptionally good book of short stories. Most of the stories are about dysfunctional relationships including abandonment, separation and abuse but so beautifully written that such difficult subjects, somehow, become a pleasure to read. The prose of Madeleine Thien is so extraordinary that this seems to be a specialty of hers. I have read her three full novels each of which deals with times of extreme trauma (the China's Cultural Revolution, Cambodia's Khmer Rouge and Japanese occupation of ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sentimental, lyrical, and complex- Thien's writing is beautiful and evocative of very specific imagery. The stories are emotionally intense but try not to be on purpose; resulting in a masterful execution of quiet longing. Every story, at its core, feels like a love story, though the strongest relationships are never of romantic love. The familial connections of the characters are also never black-and-white, and show that they are multifaceted in a very subtle, distinguished way.

Also, the cover
I might have rated this collection higher had I read it before Thien's more recent work. Otoh, I may not have been so quick to pick up her novels if all I had to go on were these stories. Overall, they succeed best when she deals with the same themes as her longer works, which isn't to say they're not all lovely and well crafted. They are. However, reading them after said novels, they feel kind of like the equivalent of a polished dress rehearsal.
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"When he scrubbed the grains clean, the sound was as big as a field of insects."

Thien uses words evocatively to tell stories that feel true. Her characters are easy to identify with.
Jethro Wall
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Madeleine's earliest published work showcases her lyrical, empathetic prose, propelled by the gravity that she has refined with her last few novels. I enjoyed this very much.
C.T. Hunter
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A really enjoyable collection of stories about broken people.
Thea Zhu
Took me a year to finish, - some stories are better/easier for me to follow than others, but I like it all in all. Would consider to read a book from the author.
Read "Map of the City" for a module at University.
Liana Kreamer
Aug 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-reads
I read the e-book (Hachette 2009) and it had so many typos - very annoying!
Dec 21, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked it but maybe the writing was too flowery? Too "important" lit?
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
loved the first and last stories but didn't feel much for the characters in between. honestly the last story made the whole thing worth it, i can't really remember anything else.
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I just discovered e very good writer :) I would definitely read more of her writings.
Oct 17, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book in Kaula Lumpur. The author's Malaysian-Chinese parents immigrated to Canada, where she was born and raised.

For an author's first book, these short stories are remarkable. Thein's ability to write such quiet, emotionally intense stories is daunting for someone so young. Each story touches on the internal pain and longing felt within families or relationships. There are 6 stories in all. From the title story Simple Recipes, in which a young child grasps with the
Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Expected more variation in the mood/tone of the short stories, so found it a bit so-so.
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Every story is hauntingly sad. But why would I delve in one after another? All because of Thien's way of storytelling. She pulls you into the characters right away, even though their life situations might be miles from your own. She tells you their stories simply, no flowery descriptions, with genuine pathos and perception. So I as a reader surrender and follow her cues and leading. From seemingly distant circles she draws me closer to an intimate telling. The sense of place, Vancouver, is also ...more
Glen U
Oct 14, 2016 rated it liked it
"Simple Recipes" is Madeleine Thien's excellent short story collection. A writer of superb talent, Thien explores the convoluted and complex labyrinth of the family and it's many permutations. Mainly dealing with the sorrows of loss, both physical and emotional, we are treated to the very real emotions of being a parent, a friend, a child, an emerging adult. Each and every story is emotionally draining without being maudlin, but each and every story also shows the indomitable spirit of love and ...more
Amanda Poirier
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this short story. It was beautifully written, it was descriptive. I was enraptured by this story. It touched on some very important issues that come up when people move from a country filled with their culture, to a country where there are many different cultures and some people with no culture at all. It showed us the issue of how cities affect people of different cultures, mainly children, and how them being affected affects their parents. This is only my interpretation of it though ...more
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Madeleine Thien was born in Vancouver. She is the author of the story collection Simple Recipes (2001), and three novels, Certainty (2006); Dogs at the Perimeter (2011), shortlisted for Berlin’s International Literature Prize and winner of the Frankfurt Book Fair’s 2015 Liberaturpreis; and Do Not Say We Have Nothing (2016), about musicians studying Western classical music at the Shanghai ...more
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