In brief: The Book of Difficult Fruit; Early Morning Riser; Sex Robots & Vegan Meat – reviews

A foray into the world of tricky fruit, unquiet life in small-town Michigan, and a savvy guide to the science of life

The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly

Kate Lebo
Pan Macmillan, £14.99, pp416

Shove over, velvety peaches and plump strawberries. Lebo, an award-winning US baker and writer, is interested in fruit that is wild and tough, forbidding rather than forbidden. Gathering 26 of her favourites – among them medlars that need to rot in order to sweeten, and wheatberries whose dust is more explosive than gunpowder – she whips up a zingy blend of natural, culinary and personal history. Notes on the medicinal properties of these fruits add a witchy kick, and recipes, too often a twee addition in narrative non-fiction, cover glue and sinus washes along with huckleberry pie. It’s a prickly, piquant delight.

Early Morning Riser

Katherine Heiny
Fourth Estate, £14.99, pp336

On the surface, Heiny’s second novel exudes sitcom cosiness. Schoolteacher Jane hooks up with Duncan, a furniture restorer, on the very afternoon that she moves to Boyne City. Don’t be fooled by the place’s name – this is small-town Michigan, and thanks to his good looks and pleasant ways, marriage-averse Duncan has slept with nearly every woman there. Even so, over some 20 years, he and Jane build a life together, riding out life’s calamities and embracing a found family of eccentrics. With its deadpan charm, local focus and sharp truths, it’s like Anne Tyler with added grunge.

Sex Robots & Vegan Meat: Adventures at the Frontier of Birth, Food, Sex and Death

Jenny Kleeman
Picador, £9.99, pp368 (paperback)

During a five-year quest that took her across four continents, British journalist and documentary film-maker Kleeman has sampled “clean” chicken nuggets, met a hyperreal silicone sex doll named Harmony, explored a 3D-printed “suicide pod”, and observed an artificial womb that promises to make childbirth as simple as “opening a Ziploc bag”. While she’s certainly no luddite, thoughtful scepticism makes her a savvy guide, and her fresh insights into, for example, disruptive technology’s gender dimension, underpin provocative takes on progress and human nature itself. Thoroughly absorbing.

To order The Book of Difficult Fruit, Early Morning Riser or Sex Robots & Vegan Meat, go to Delivery charges may apply


Hephzibah Anderson

The GuardianTramp

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