Sweetbitter

Stephanie Danler. Knopf, $24.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-101-87594-0
This debut is a quintessential coming-of-age story set in a remorseless, unusual city. Time and place are superbly established: the setting is the behind-the-scenes milieu of a celebrated restaurant in 2006 Manhattan. Propelled by “unbridled, unfocused desire” but still essentially naive, 22-year-old Tess has fled an empty life in the Midwest and landed a coveted job as a server in a restaurant that strongly resembles the famous Union Square Café. At first crushingly lonely and exhausted by the arduous routine, Tess is mentored by longtime senior server Simone. Despite warnings to avoid falling for bartender Jake, and willfully blind to the strange relationship between Jake and Simone, Tess begins a passionate affair with him. Meanwhile, she becomes an accepted member of a select society of overworked, terminally tense and bone-tired wait staff. Danler writes about food with sensory gusto as Tess learns how to distinguish the fine points of every wine, how to identify an heirloom tomato or oyster, how to shave a truffle. Tess also learns how to get seriously drunk and snort lines of coke. Early on, she defines the foods and condiments that are sweet and those that are bitter—and her relationships with Simone and Jake are ultimately just that: a sweet time of consummate happiness followed by bitter betrayal. Throughout, Danler evokes Tess’s voice—intimate, confiding, wonderstruck, depressed—with deft skill. This novel is a treat, sure to find a big following. (May)
Reviewed on: 12/07/2015
Release date: 05/24/2016
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-1-101-91186-0
Compact Disc - 978-0-399-56628-8
Library Binding - 530 pages - 978-1-4104-9343-9
Prebound-Glued - 368 pages - 978-0-606-40033-6
Paperback - 978-1-4328-3992-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio

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