“Grind is an engrossing Australian novel that expertly weaves together the stories of a suite of intriguing characters, united by the steaming elixir that punctuates their dreary days: coffee.

In the midst of a biting Melbourne winter, the paths a fortune-telling migrant, a dissatisfied real estate agent, a pub-owning amateur poet, a mysterious vagrant and a superstitious school girl cross in unexpected places, often over a cup of their favourite, bitter beverage. Each of them is looking for meaning, wondering what’s next, and navigating complex emotions about their past.

Through the characters’ coffee rituals, occasional interactions with each other and shared sense of grief over past hurts and present injustices, this motley crew are fixated by the bleak futures foretold in their haunting visions and dreams.

While they are all inherently connected, Vukovic successfully establishes individual voices for each character, using language and imagery that reflects their various backgrounds and personalities. Both male and female voices are convincing, which can be challenging to achieve.

Detailed descriptions of their daily coffee-making routines are used to highlight their cultural and socio-economic differences. One hand-crafts a delicately spiced home brew, another swears by his gritty Nescafé. There are also barista-made cappuccinos and, on one occasion, convenience store swill.

Although Melbourne is often associated with coffee snobbery, these varied choices are pleasantly portrayed without judgement. They are expressions of each individual, embedded in their history and central to their identity.

Vukovic’s tender, poetic descriptions of his characters’ daily lives and love of coffee convey a profound fondness for Melbourne’s varied social landscape. He doesn’t shy away from depictions of poverty and struggle. Indeed, all of his characters are struggling in some way. Unemployment and abuse of power are particularly common threads.

It is rare to find a novel that brings disparate characters into each others’ lives without seeming self-consciousness, but Vukovic achieves this effortlessly. Their interactions are fleeting and unexpected, leaving the reader wondering whether and how a more active relationship will be established.

Grind is satisfyingly slow moving, not giving much away early on. It is not a page turner in the traditional sense – there is not enough action or suspense. However, it builds at a pace that makes you want to continue on, if only to find out what each character’s next step is.

Much in the story is intentionally obscured, creating a sense of mystery that begs to be resolved. The truth is revealed to the reader almost as it is revealed to the characters themselves. Even the time period in which the book is set takes a while to work out, as the experiences of the first character featured, Ziva, are somewhat timeless, fitting just as believably into 1950 as 2018.

Vukovic appears to be particularly interested in the up-hill battles and heartbreaks of the migrant experience, explored through the stories of Ziva and the homeless Michel, who both face reinvention and instability in a foreign land with minimal social support.

Stereotypical aspects of “Aussie” culture are also critiqued; Isaac, the undiscovered poet who owns the pub, turns the macho publican image on its head and, while much of the plot takes place around beer, there is a sadness and isolation in these scenes that contrast against the quiet enjoyment of coffee.

Grind is an absorbing, thought provoking read. It has a melancholic tone, but maintains a sense of hope and wonder and reflects a love of Melbourne and its characters.

Reviewed by Sarah Judd-Lam

Rating out of 10: 9”Original link
— Sarah Judd-Lam - https://glamadelaide.com.au/book-review-grind-by-edward-vukovic/
“Every so often, I get the chance to read a book I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen if I was placed in the middle of a bookshop. Such occurrences help me to open my mind to new genres/story types and discover more about what I like and don’t like in a book. Grind by Edward Vukovic was one such book.

For the most part, Grind tells the story of Ziva, an Eastern European immigrant currently living in Australia with her brother and his wife. Ziva’s grandmother passed to her the gift of reading a person’s destiny through the remnants of their coffee cup, which Ziva uses to bring comfort to those who come to her.

The story begins with Ziva and then continues through the voice of several other characters. For at least three-quarters of the book, it is as if the reader is being presented with individual short stories about each character. Besides the role of coffee in their lives, there is nothing very apparent which connects them. However, what Vukovic has been doing is building up a slow momentum because, by the time the book comes to a close, the connection between each person is apparent: we learn that it is not a love of coffee which has connected each person, but destiny. And that was what this book was about for me, destiny and how our fate is what it is.

This book kept me interested, more because I wanted to discover the link between the characters rather than it being a very exciting story. I would say that Grind did not have any climax, nor were the characters relatable, even though they told sorrowful stories. However, this was a very cleverly written book. I mentioned already that it is not until the last quarter of the book that the connections between the characters become apparent but, in hindsight, there were some clues for the in-depth reader. Little things begin to ring a bell and there is a slow build until begins to piece together.

The best thing for me about this book was the writing style. The descriptive language was very beautiful; its poetic flow allowed me to build an accurate image of each event in my mind. The normal clichés were not used here and I could see that Vukovic put a lot of thought into the words he chooses.

Overall, I would say I enjoyed this book. It certainly opened up a new style of writing to me and an interesting way to build suspense and mystery. I will be keeping my eyes open for Edward Vukovic’s future work.”
— Joy Corkery - joyfulantidotes.com
“The cover drew me in – so well designed. I’m not a coffee drinker, yet reading this book could almost make me become one. I was mesmerized by the poetic flow and rich descriptions in the book, so much so, that I almost lost track of the story. However, midway through, I was very much engrossed into the characters and found the book hard to put down. The reader is enriched by the subtle ritual of the coffee drinker, not much unlike a Japanese tea ceremony. The descriptions were so defined that at one point my mind drifted, thinking of the popcorn that we might have during a movie later that night. I read on only about three pages onward and found a popcorn scene. Was it intuitive? Did the smell of popcorn seep through to the surrounding pages? The author does a superb job.

As a writer I was greatly inspired by his work. If this book would get in the right hands, I could see it as a bestseller. “
— J. Schlenker - Author - The Color of Cold and Ice
Grind by Edward Vukovic is a fiction novel touching on aspects of romance, mystery, and occult. However the main focus of Grind is the effect people unknowingly have on other people’s lives. It follows Ziva, Michel, Simon, Isaac, and Danielle. Five strangers whose paths cross and alter the course of another’s future.

Ziva was raised to read coffee, her skills taught to her by her baba (Grandmother.) whose skills were sought far and wide by those wishing to learn of the future. Ziva understands all too well people do not always want to hear what they are foretold, yet she speaks the truth, whether they accept it is another matter. Ziva avoids reading for herself, but to know the future is tempting, and an urge she could no longer resist.

One of the most interesting things about Grind is the manner in which it was written. It takes the lives of five different characters and subtly combines them so they each have a profound and sometimes unknown effect of the lives of those mentioned. The book is written in parts, and whilst from multiple perspectives is all done in first person with a unique voice for each character. Each character has their own story, their own plot, it would be easy to view this book as a collection of shorter stories with two common themes, coffee and consequence. The descriptive voice of the author is well-developed, and the unfolding of events toward the dramatic conclusion is expertly executed. I can honestly say I’ve not read anything quite like it. It truly makes you sit back and reflect on how the things you do can effect people you may never even have met.
— K J Simmill - Author of Darrienia: The Forgotten Legacies Series
It’s not unusual these days for an author to tell the stories of several characters who are not friends or relatives, and who apparently have different experiences and social backgrounds. As a reader, I enjoy this. I expect the author will bring the characters together by the end of the book, and I’ll try to figure out how their relationships will connect before the author lets me know.

Grind by Edward Vukovic is this kind of story, and is terrific in many ways. It’s told in first person by several realistic main characters who live in Australia. Ziva, a young immigrant woman from what she calls “the old Yugoslavia”, lives with her sister and brother-in-law, and works in a sewing factory. She loves coffee and has learned to “read” it, in order to help people—and herself—understand what their future will be. Simon is a young man who works at a real estate company and is struggling to be successful. Isaac, who owns a dog named Dante, runs a bar that has coffee as well as beer. Michel, an immigrant from Belgium, seems to be one of the homeless people seen regularly on the streets. Danielle is a young student who cares for her father after a family tragedy. She studies and thinks about how her life might evolve. We get to know these people as they share their life experiences, their current situations, and their hopes. As Ziva reads the coffee, and dreams occur for her and others, we also get to see hints about what is actually going to happen.

The characters take us through the plot, so that we can find out what happens and why. That being said, I almost hesitate to use the term “plot”, because the characters and situations seem very real rather than imagined. Edward Vucovic has done a very good job organizing, describing, and resolving what happens. As the story progresses, more is learned about the background of the characters, whether they meet each other (and how that happens), and what the results will be. I hesitate to give too much detail about this, because that would certainly include spoilers; but I did feel that the results were very satisfying and realistic.

Of course, it can also be important to mention that some things could have been done a little differently. For example, all the characters who tell in first person seem to use a very similar style. Chapters are noted by the character who is in charge, and what happens and how it happens gives us information as well, but having some style differences might make each character a bit more recognizable and unique.

I suspect it will be no surprise that I am rating Grind with 4 out of 4 stars. Reading this book, I was far particularly involved with wondering how the story would end and I have already said more than once that the characters and plot were well done, but there are other things I found impressive as well. There is some good poetry that one of the characters wrote, for example. It was a book I wished I could have just continued reading, without stopping for work or sleep; and I’m already thinking about reading it again.

I would categorize this book as “Other Fiction”, since it includes romance, mystery, and some psychic elements as well. If you like great characters, a satisfying plot, and really good coffee, Grind is a book for you!
— Ms Martha - Online Book Club
Grind by Edward Vukovic is a fiction novel exploring how life plays out in mysterious ways, through coincidences which bring together hitherto strangers, to form the big picture.

Ziva is the recipient of an unnatural gift which is passed on from one generation to the next on her father’s side. Her love for coffee is but obvious then, considering that it is the coffee cups which hold the secrets and patterns of life that she deciphers for people. Simon loves his coffee too much to share it with others; after all it’s a special mixture, not meant for the espresso lovers. Also, it is the one thing he likes in his largely hopeless life. For Isaac, coffee acts as a reminder of his alcoholic past, and it is his comrade-in-arms, as he tempts himself every day, sticking to this hot beverage while serving intoxicating drinks to the customers in his pub. For Michel, bonding over coffee is an important activity, since that brings him close to the only friend in his life.

The story follows how the lives of these characters get inexorably entangled within a couple of days, and how the events which play out during this time change the course of their lives. Coming to the writing style, to call it vivid would be an understatement. Sample this:

“Its (coffee’s) scent is powerful, sensual, mystical. Awakened by its timelessness you feel it coarse through you, steel you against the barbs of the oncoming day. The warmth against your skin as you cup it softly, gingerly, careful not to spill it. Its heat rises and falls on your breath, the steam billowing like sails of mist. Each gust drifting through you, rippling across your senses. Charged, you grimace slightly, the first taste flushing down your throat, bitter and hot. Subtle nuances trickle over your lips, moisten them; scar them temporarily with auburn hues. A flick of your tongue catches its darkness, imbibes its vigor. It is your master and you its slave. Without it you are nothing and with it…all.”

The book is sprayed with myriad, evocative descriptions of coffee, trying to draw a parallel with the complexities of life. Not just coffee, but the whole book is replete with sharp imageries, flowing in synchronization, back and forth, from the perspective of one character to the next.

Coming to the plot, the author has brought in multiple angles, at the same time, kept it simple. Whether it’s Ziva’s immigration from the region ravaged by the Balkan wars, or Isaac’s rebirth after his wife’s untimely demise; the author has picked up straightforward individual stories to spin an interesting, complex web. The emotional struggles and short glimpses into the past of these characters, is where the central plot really comes across, reflecting on the ‘grind’ they had to experience in their lives. For example, Ziva’s confusion about whether her intuitive powers are a curse or a gift, especially since whenever she reads for herself, there’s only trouble brewing in her coffee cup, or Simon reminiscing about how his life changed after he lost his father, or Michel falsifying his past since the truth would disgust and repel his best friend.

The book sketches an engaging plotline of interconnected tales and reiterates that old proverb, ‘the world is a small place’. The conclusion was slightly disappointing, primarily since it was predictable and a bit cliché, but nonetheless a fitting end to the story. I rate the book 4 out of 4 stars.
— debo9967 - Online Book Club
This is a really intriguing story, it sucked me in, and even though I had to make a trip to the store in the middle I still came back and finished it. Your character building is fantastic, the way you give little hints that reveal so much really keeps the story moving, I cared about Baba and Ziva instantly.
— A J Dodge
To be honest, I don’t read a lot (meaning: any) fiction, but I really enjoyed what was a memorable story. The writing style was very fluid and easy to read and I was completely immersed in the skilfully written narrative. But most of all, I was really taken in by the descriptive way of looking at the world.

My personal yardstick is thinking what someone from the US might get from the story, having never visited Melbourne. The writer truly laboured over painting the mental pictures, which I appreciated, as I think anyone, anywhere, could feel a “Melbourne experience” from any chapter of the book.

It was a real pleasure reading a very enjoyable book.
— Harry Rosenthal
I really liked this book. Firstly, I just liked the story - I always love books with independent characters that somehow cross paths, either physically or in a metaphorical (emotional) way.

The character development is awesome, and something I’m quite fussy about. If I don’t connect at some level with most of the characters in a book, I don’t enjoy it as much. These characters are complex and well-drawn, but with a little left out just so you can fill the holes yourself - invariably you fill them in a way that makes them familiar to you, and hence easy to connect to.

I also found that the author did a great job with the female characters - some male authors tend to lack a little in this area but this author was very insightful.

It almost lost a star just for the complexity of the writing, which isn’t a failing of the author skill-wise, but not a preference of mine. I like some detail, but sometimes it was too much for me. The author is very skilled at weaving a lacework of adjectives that build a clear picture, but sometimes for me it clogs it up. It did loosen up about a third of the way through (or I got used to it and more tolerant!).

The use of language was very accurate for the location, setting and cultures it portrays - I enjoyed that part of the writing a lot. It’s very “Melbourne”.
— Beck