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Sweetbitter
by Stephanie Danler


Overview - INSTANT NATIONAL BESTSELLER * A thrilling novel of the senses and a coming-of-age tale, following a small-town girl into the electrifying world of New York City and the education of a lifetime at one of the most exclusive restaurants in Manhattan.  Read more...

 
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More About Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
 
 
 
Overview
INSTANT NATIONAL BESTSELLER * A thrilling novel of the senses and a coming-of-age tale, following a small-town girl into the electrifying world of New York City and the education of a lifetime at one of the most exclusive restaurants in Manhattan. Perfect for readers of Kitchen Confidential and Blood, Bones and Butter.

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.

Stephanie Danler deftly conjures the nonstop and purely adrenalized world of the restaurant--conversations interrupted, phrases overheard, and suggestions below the surface. Evoking the infinite possibility of being young in New York with heart-stopping accuracy, Sweetbitter is ultimately about the power of what remains after disillusionment, and the wisdom that comes from experience, sweet and bitter.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781101875940
  • ISBN-10: 1101875941
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publish Date: May 2016
  • Page Count: 368
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Coming of Age
Books > Fiction > Urban

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2015-12-07
  • Reviewer: Staff

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 bitterand her relationships with Simone and Jake are ultimately just that: a sweet time of consummate happiness followed by bitter betrayal. Throughout, Danler evokes Tesss voiceintimate, confiding, wonderstruck, depressedwith deft skill. This novel is a treat, sure to find a big following. (May)

 
BookPage Reviews

A witty look at life in the service industry

Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler’s debut novel, is the literary equivalent of spiked chocolate mousse: the lightest of confections, but with a powerful kick. Danler, a former waitress, has fashioned a breezy piece of fiction that dramatizes the behind-the-scenes activities of a posh Manhattan restaurant in exact and unsparing detail. This episodic novel’s depiction of staff members who bandy profanities and snort the harshest drugs is so precise and vividly rendered that, the next time you patronize a fancy eatery, you may wonder what those smiling greeters are up to behind the swinging door.

In June 2006, a 22-year-old English major named Tess arrives in New York from her Midwestern hometown and gets a job as a back waiter at Union Square’s most popular restaurant. Tess is such a novice about food that, when she’s asked during her interview to name “the five noble grapes of Bordeaux,” she “pictured cartoon grapes wearing crowns on their heads, welcoming me to their châteaux.”

The owner hires Tess, however, because he sees her as a “fifty-one percenter,” a person who has the empathy and work ethic lacking in many restaurant employees. Soon, Tess is part of a crew that includes a chef who demands that no one speak to him while he cooks, a food runner who writes screenplays and the bartender with whom Tess is smitten.

Occasionally, Danler tries too hard to be literary, but for the most part, Sweetbitter is a feast of coarse dialogue and industry insight. “You will stumble on secrets,” Tess says early in the novel. So will readers of this entertaining debut.

 

This article was originally published in the June 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews