LA author and sometimes food writer Michelle Huneven discusses ‘Search’

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Los Angeles-based author Michelle Huneven’s new novel is ‘Search.’ She occasionally writes about food for which she has won a James Beard Award and teaches creative writing at University of California, Los Angeles. Photo by Courtney Gregg.

In an excerpt from her KCRW Bookworm interview guest-hosted by Evan Kleiman, Los Angeles-based author Michelle Huneven discusses her latest novel, “Search.” Her protagonist Dana Potowski is a restaurant critic, food writer, and longtime member of the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Southern California, where she joins the committee on the hunt for their new minister.

Her work explores Los Angeles, both in terms of place and its people, and Huneven always seems to use food as a way into her characters lives and the milieu they inhabit. Sometimes the line is thin between her characters and her own life.

Her previous books have been New York Times Notable Books, and finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and for the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

Excerpt from Search - A Novel by Michelle Huneven

“The search for a new minister,” Arne began in his slow, raspy quaver, “is a sacred task to be undertaken with reverence and humility. You are as pilgrims embarking on a long journey to find your new leader. As with most spiritual undertakings, there will be hills to climb, dark valleys to cross, with doubts, missteps, and bugaboos along the way. I was on the search committee for Tom Fox, and I can tell you, surprises hide around every corner. You’ll encounter jolts, joys, disappointments, and many wondrous moments. A holy search is the experience of a lifetime. You’ll come to know your companions well, and become marvelously close.” 

We gave one another nervous glances, except for Sam, the obligatory Rourke, who was studying the agenda and pulling a long white eyebrow to an impossible-seeming length then letting it spring back. Was closeness possible with a man who didn’t recognize a person he’d eaten lunch with every month for years?

“Forty-seven people applied to be on this committee,” said Arne. “Together, you represent as many aspects of church life as we could assemble in one group.” Arne’s voice rose with emotion. “Together, you form a church in miniature and, as such, you’ll choose the next minister for us all. Also, every one of you wrote the same thing in your letters. Before we leave tonight, let’s see if you can figure out what it was.” 

“Time to burn?” said Belinda.

“Out of our minds?” said Adrian. 

Excerpted from Search - A Novel © 2022 Michelle Huneven. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Penguin Press. All rights reserved.