Excerpt from Love Is a Canoe by Ben Schrank, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Love Is a Canoe

By Ben Schrank

Love Is a Canoe
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2013,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2014,
    352 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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"What happened?" she asked. "What'd you do to my piecrust?"

Eli was looking into a glass bowl. Bits of egg bobbed in a green sauce that didn't seem like it could possibly set. There were mounds of vegetables on cutting boards and spices everywhere. Butter was smeared in pie plates. Though she didn't see anything cooking in a pan, the smell was now more complex than just onions.

"I had an idea," Eli said.

"This is not blueberry pie. I love you, Eli. But this doesn't look like a winner."

"No it is, don't worry. I saw eggs in the fridge and we have potatoes and there's prosciutto that I bought with that old Staubitz gift certificate. But the green sauce is the key. That's our secret weapon. I called my uncle Frito. We'll go savory with a breakfast pie for dinner that's actually like a timbale and we'll win. I'm going to get the male vote. You watch."

"Uncle Frito?"

"Uncle Frito, in Mexico, who created the Frito pie. He had a good pointer for me so I'm glad I called."

"I don't get how just because your mother is from Chile it allows you to both claim and denigrate all of South America," Emily said. She was Jewish and had grown up in Milton, outside Boston. And then her parents divorced when she and Sherry were still in middle school and their mother had gone to Maine to teach at Bates. So Emily felt strictly Northeastern and was even a little proud of it.

"Take it easy, Mrs. Laid-back. This pie is initially subtle and then studded with fire. Or it will be if I can get it to set right." Eli stroked his chin. "You go take a shower. Let me do a few more secret South American things."

"This isn't very team," Emily said.

"Sometimes one member of a team needs blind support and then the whole team ends up winning," Eli said. "Actually, it's like that a lot. Look at Lance Armstrong." He grabbed a spoon and dipped it into the bowl. "Taste."

"No. If you expect blind support, I won't. What illegal something extra did you put in there, Lance?"

"Taste."

So she did and the sauce was smoky and fiery and everything Eli said it would be.

"It's delicious," she said. "I guess I'll get dressed. You'll get the male and the female vote."

When Emily came out of their bedroom she was in a dark blue summer dress with white polka dots.

"You look hot," Eli said. "Later you'll pull that dress up around your thighs and we'll do our victory dance on a tabletop. You can flash your underpants at the boys."

There were two big paper bags on the kitchen counter. Tomorrow she'd bake a pie with the blueberries and bring it to work on Monday.

"How about clothes for you?" she asked.

"Oh, yeah." Eli threw on a shirt and found his flip-flops by the door. "Also, I need your help with the speech."

"Speech?"

"I don't want to be at a loss for words when we win."

*   *   *

Sherry lived on Lorimer Street in Williamsburg above a recently shut-down restaurant called Baba. She had briefly dated Nicola, the restaurant's owner. Sherry mostly appeared in productions at Playwrights Horizons and in new plays by Kenneth Lonergan and Annie Baker. Because she was intermittently funny and conventionally beautiful, she occasionally flew out to Hollywood or Vancouver for supporting roles in movies starring Anna Faris.

"I know," Sherry said to Emily once Eli had gone off to set out their pies. "I'm all sweaty."

"Don't be dumb. You look like somebody's dream come true," Emily said.

Sherry was in a black dress with a thick white sash across the middle. Her lipstick was bright red. She had a habit of biting her lower lip and she did that now.

"You do get that I'm a truck-stop waitress?"

"I do," Emily said. "It works."

Baba had been a bodega before becoming Baba, a wine-and-small-plates place, and then Nicola gave up on it and went down to Miami to run a catering business. But Sherry had a key and was friendly with the landlord. Now the small room was filled with round café tables with a pie stuck with a numbered flag on each one. The place smelled like spilled wine and it was noisy.

Copyright © 2013 by Ben Schrank

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