cover image Sweetbitter: A Novel

Sweetbitter: A Novel

Stephanie Danler, read by Alex McKenna. Random House Audio, , unabridged, 10 CDs, 12.5 hrs., $45 ISBN 978-0-399-56628-8

With her breathless, raspy voice, reader McKenna embodies the sheer physical sensuality of Danler’s foodie novel; with her youthful sound and tendency to inflect the ends of sentences as though they were questions, she catches the generational zeitgeist of the novel’s protagonist, Tess, who’s fresh out of college and trying to make it as a server in one of New York’s trendiest restaurants. McKenna’s performance ably captures the chaos of the kitchen, ruled by a terrifying chef who bellows “Pick up!” and proclaims the church-like sanctity of his domain. McKenna succeeds at breathing life into book’s main character, who captivates with humor and sensitivity. It all falls flat, however, in her voicing of the other characters, who sound mostly the same except for those who McKenna voices with poorly executed foreign or regional accents, such as the on-again, off-again Slavic cadence of Sasha, a Russian employee of the restaurant. These missteps make the listening experience uneven enough to be distracting. [em]A Knopf hardcover. (May) [/em]