Another unexpected lovely read that reminds me very much of a recent book which I also adored (Invisible Ghosts). North of Happy kind of has a similar premise because the main characters in both stories suffer the loss of their older brother and now their ghost is haunting the still living brother although maybe entertaining is the better term. Lol.
Carlos, as part of his giving process, flees his hometown and embarks on a journey all the way from Mexico to an island one ferry away from Seattle for a single meal at the well-renowned restaurant called Provecho. Serendipitous events take place which begin with Carlos meeting Emma to eventually getting himself a job as a dishwasher at the said restaurant. From there, he slowly gets his chances on actually fulfilling his dream on being a chef as the famous but super scary Chef Elise (seeing the rare talent and potential of Carlos) handpicks him to teach (or torture) him about cooking.
But what I enjoyed most about the story is the omnipresence of Carlos’ dead brother, Felix who takes different forms: as a bird, on TV, in his coffee, as a fly, as his shadow doing flips, as Casper-style cartoon ghost, as a zombie and even as food always providing Carlos cheesy but useful counsel. I know it’s supposed to be heartbreaking because, of course, it’s only Carlos who sees these and are most definitely just by-products of his grief but it’s also just too hilarious. I’m very eager to flip the pages if only to see the next form Felix takes. Lol.
But humor aside, I think the book is able to tackle grief in a light but actually believable manner. It definitely doesn’t hurt that the story is laden with all these incredible recipes and I am right along with Carlos as he concocts dishes whether just for himself, for Emma, for the staff of Provecho but especially during the time he is allowed to fiddle with the day’s specials. The conclusion is also a flavorful and satisfying seasoning to the entire story as it resolves Carlos issues with his family and gives hope for an Emma-Carlos possible second chance.