Sweetbitter: A Novel
Author: Stepahanie Danler
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016
Hardcover Edition: 352 pages
Source: Personal copy
This is a modern novel, possibly different than a reader might expect. The author’s exquisite use of dialogue and cadence puts the reader inside the chaos of a busy upscale New York restaurant. There’s the unexpected on nearly every page.
Young Tess goes to New York City and lands a job as a backwaiter in a famous New York restaurant. This is more of a job than some readers might expect. In this complicated place an education awaits our Tess.
There are destructive behaviors that are not much fun to read about. Maybe some readers don’t want to know the striving and failing of their waiters, runners, wine pourers, host staff and clean-up crews. But after the chef and the kitchen staff, these folks are responsible for the experiences those of us who love restaurant dining crave.
It’s a fun read to watch Tess learn about the flavors and intricacies of food. She’s a faster learner with food than with people. But then, perhaps this reader has forgotten some of the pitfalls of youth. I would agree with one reviewer who called this a young readers’s book. I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t sell-sell-sell. There’s little doubt Danler is a very talented writer who has tasted writing excellence with what I believe is her first book. There’s a sensory truth here expressed in a way as fresh as the food the fictional restaurant aspires to serve. How guests are treated in the restaurant in the novel, is how we all would like to be treated .
If you are ready for a new and different read, this is the book for you. Though I experienced moments of despair over Tess’s behaviors, I’m so glad I didn’t miss this read. It’s as exhilarating as a roller-coaster ride on a hot summer evening.