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Renowned northern treat the 'Persian' featured in a new novel

Nancy Mauro has fictionalized the story of the Persian in a novel set in Thunder Bay

THUNDER BAY — If Nancy Mauro knows the recipe for the Persian, the famous sweet bun slathered with tasty pink icing, she's not prepared to admit it.

The pastry created by local baker Art Bennett is at the centre of the author's new novel, The Sugar Thief.

"I might know that recipe, but I won't talk about it," says Mauro. 

For the book, the Thunder Bay-born writer changed the recipe to protect family and trade secrets.

"There is a chapter where one of the characters is creating the Persian. That I invented myself, so all secrets are safe," she told TBnewswatch in an interview.

Mauro grew up in the city but moved away to attend university and currently lives in New York. 

Her family is still in Thunder Bay, so she visits on a regular basis.

The Sugar Thief was released this month by Penguin Random House Canada.

The publisher describes it as "A deliciously comedic family melodrama about an imploding social media star, a small-town Italian bakery, the treachery of fame, and the pink-frosted pastry at the heart of it all."

Mauro's parents and other family members purchased Bennett's Bakery and inherited the Persian in the 1960s.

"I was a little too young to remember much about the bakery, but I had always heard stories of where it came from, and how it got its name and so on. That led to some research, then I turned the story into a work of fiction," she said.

The Sugar Thief is about a social media influencer and YouTube pastry chef who returns to her hometown  of Thunder Bay

As Mauro describes the story, in unravelling the secret of the Persian the main character also ends up unravelling her family's history and the true reason a decision was made to move from Italy to Northwestern Ontario.

There are numerous local references in the novel.

Mauro is getting lots of positive feedback from people who've already picked it up.

"Everyone's been sending me pictures of their 'morning read.' They've got the book open beside a Persian on a plate, and a steaming cup of coffee. That's pretty much the best response anyone can hope for," she said. "It's kind of a fun summer read, that's for sure."

Mauro said she hopes local readers get particular enjoyment out of seeing their city as the setting for a novel, but noted "It's also a story about family....about leaving family and about coming back to family. So in that way it's definitely identifiable."

She'll be in Thunder Bay on Aug. 25 to do a reading at Indigo.

The Italian rights to The Sugar Thief have been sold to a publisher based in Italy, where it is expected to be released in the near future.

Mauro's debut novel, New World Monkeys, was published in 2009. 


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Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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