Thursday, May 25, 2017

Stephanie Danler, SWEETBITTER

This book could have been the fairly predictable story (think The Devil Wears Prada x Kitchen Confidential) of a lonely and naive 22-year-old coming from the sticks of Ohio to NYC, taking a job in a high-end restaurant, meeting a hot (but damaged, naturally) bartender, experimenting with drugs, scraping by in a rotten little apartment, finding a mentor who turns into an enemy when threatened, and evolving to a wiser self. But this book is both more nuanced and more painful than that synopsis suggests, showing how profoundly a lack of self (we don't even get Tess's name until a good way into the book) shapes every aspect of one's life. The knowledge of food and wine and the restaurant industry feels like we're being let in on secrets, like Tess is; and the writing is deft, playful, and suggestive. "A palate is a spot on your tongue where you remember." "I don't know what it is exactly, being a server. It's a job, certainly, but not exclusively ... One doesn't move up or down. One waits. You are a waiter." "So--some tomatoes tasted like water, and some tasted like summer lightning." A very good debut.

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