By Stephanie Danler
Knopf Publishing Group, Hardcover, 9781101875940, May 2016, 368pp.
The Short of It:
An apt title for a story that pushes you away as much as it pulls you in.
The Rest of It:
Youth. Remember it? Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve felt that elusive, fleeting happiness that percolates ever so gently when it comes to love. Well, this story captures it beautifully.
New York City is the backdrop for this novel and it’s dizzying in its perfection. Even with the bug infestations and the rats running through the street, Tess finds it to be magical in its own way.
“It’s ludicrous for anyone to live here,” she thinks, at the same time, she thinks, “I can never leave.” ~Sweetbitter
Tess moves to the city with the hopes to reinvent herself. In her twenties, it’s as if the world is there for the taking so when she lands a job at a well-known restaurant, she quickly falls into the routine of the place which includes many players, much drama and Jake, the bartender she’s completely obsessed with.
Tess is a work-in-progress. She’s green when it comes to love and war and she takes a beating both professionally and personally. Her eagerness to learn and her willingness to take it all in makes her vulnerable and somewhat innocent. Often times I found myself wanting to shake her a little but as I approached the final pages, I realized just how masterful the writing was.
There’s so much to love about this book. There’s food and wine and plenty of flawed, interesting people and Danler absolutely nailed the restaurant industry. I suppose it’s a coming-of-age story but it’s sophisticated, gritty and brutal in its honesty. I highly recommend it.
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