Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler


Synopsis via Amazon:

Twenty-two, and knowing no one, Tess leaves home to begin her adult life in New York City. Thus begins a year that is both enchanting and punishing, in a low-level job at “the best restaurant in New York City.” Grueling hours and a steep culinary learning curve awaken her to the beauty of oysters, the finest Champagnes, the appellations of Burgundy. At the same time, she opens herself to friendships—and love—set against the backdrop of dive bars and late nights.  As her appetites sharpen—for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging—Tess is drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle that will prove to be her most exhilarating and painful lesson of all. 

My thoughts:

I’m really torn on whether or not to recommend this book.  First off the book reads like poetry, the author is a true poet I enjoyed the reading a lot. Secondly, it is absolute food porn if I’ve ever read one!  However, the story-line, or lack thereof, could have been so much better.  This could have been a great book all around but it didn’t deliver a great story and the ending was… blah!  Maybe it’s just something I can’t relate to that made it a bit unappealing to me.  You have this girl who arrives in New York City that can be anything she wants to be.  She gets hired at one of the top restaurants and really wants to climb that latter to become a server.  She stays out late, snorts coke, drinks til she’s belligerent all while trying to get the attention of Jake, the grungy bartender.  Then there’s Simone, an older woman that I assumed was (maybe sort of is) a mentor to Tess.  Jake and Simone have this weird relationship, weird meaning I don’t know if they’re romantically involved or mother/son type.  Just a little gross.  Anywho… you’ll have to read the book to find out the rest.  It’s not a very long book so maybe it actually would be worth the time even if you agree that it was just… meh.

“I had never thought of a tomato as a fruit—the ones I had known were mostly white in the center and rock hard. But this was so luscious, so tart I thought it victorious. So—some tomatoes tasted like water, and some tasted like summer lightning.”

“I flipped the shell back. I was prepared for the brininess. For the softness of it. For the rigidity and strangeness of the ritual. Adrenalized, fiercely private. I panted slightly and opened my eyes. Jake was looking at me and said, ‘They’re perfect.’ He handed me the beer. It was nearly black, persuasive as chocolate, weighty. The finish was cream, it matched the oyster’s creaminess. The sensory conspiracy made the blood rush to my head, made my skin break out in goose bumps. Ignore him. Look away. I looked at him. ‘Can I have another?’”


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