25 June 2009

Noodle Pie

by Ruth Starke

Scholastic. Australian, Junior. Paperback rrp $16.99

Guest Reviewer Jo Burnell

It’s never a good idea to be too set in your ways. Staying in a completely different country with unfamiliar customs is a sure way of breaking down barriers and opening the mind. Or is it? Meeting relatives for the first time isn’t easy, especially when it means travelling half way around the world to Vietnam. Andy was born in Australia and thinks like an Australian. Family customs bemuse him, while the pecking order of his many relatives makes no sense at all. Andy’s sense of fairness is challenged and he’s not used to shocks.

The successful family restaurant is not what he imagined. The bustling eat-and-go foodservice has a few short stools for the locals, but it’s not a restaurant by Aussie standards. Dad is wearing gold jewellery that didn’t exist in Australia. Where did that come from? Andy’s family always struggles to pay the bills and make ends meet. Things are not making sense.

Ruth Starke is lavish in her descriptions. You can see, hear, taste and smell as you travel the pages. Some dishes have my mouth watering, while I can’t imagine others at all, no matter how hard I try. Guess I’ll just have to try them for myself.

The wonderful gift of Noodle Pie is the way the cultural barriers are broken down. Preconceived ideas of how things should be done are challenged on both sides – for both Australians and Vietnamese. The custom of saving face at all costs crashes head-on with more basic issues like whether stretching the truth is really a lie. The line between right and wrong can be very thin.

I walk away from Noodle Pie excited by what I have learned and surprised that I have picked up a little wisdom along the way. I was enjoying the reading ride too much to notice. I can’t wait to pick up another book about Vietnam… but wonder if it will hook me in the way Ruth’s modern day dialogue and vibrant characters did.

It’s no surprise that Noodle Pie was short listed for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award.


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