Wednesday, November 2, 2016

SWEETBITTER by Stephanie Danler; Audio Edition

By Stephanie Danler; Narrated by Alex MxKenna
Random House Audio

    Everything you always wanted and more is in this dynamite debut novel by Stephanie Danler.  It is a story based on the author’s personal experience delivered in crisp, evocative prose and rich with description that informs, delights and leaves you hungry for more.  Hungry is a well chosen word as Sweetbitter is much about food - delicious, tantalizing, exquisitely prepared.

    We meet highly intelligent yet naive 22-year-old Tess when we hear, “Let’s say I was born when I came over the George Washington Bridge...”  She has driven from the dullness of the Midwest to New York City which she believes holds all of her dreams.  She finds work as a backwaiter at a well known restaurant near Union Square.  Sweetbitter is the story of her first year during which she learns about the city’s social ladder, the restaurant’s chain of command and the thought processes of those who truly love food.

    Now, Tess does make some mistakes - being young and not full of self-confidence she tries copying others, does too much coke, and falls for Jake, the bartender.  Yet she has spirit, bouncing back from mispronouncing the Chardonnay she is introducing and almost mastering table numbers and names.  She finds a mentor in Simone, an older woman at the restaurant who evidently knows everything about food, wine and culture.  Tess is a quick learner and not only masters oysters, truffles and sherry but develops an educated palate.

    This is, of course, a New York story ergo a love triangle - Tess, Simone and Jake.  Danler includes a fascinating description of the sheer panic caused by an unannounced visit by the health department.  The author’s descriptions of food are dazzling causing this reader untoward amounts of salivation.   Danler is an accomplished storyteller and Sweetbitter is simply not to be missed.

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