Book Review: Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
If you've seen me raving about a certain book on Instagram, Twitter or my new best friend, Litsy (Follow me @JenniferJR) there's a really good reason why.
Because this little gem is amazing, simply put.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler- It's set in New York, with lots of wine and food mixed in. Really, there's everything to love about that combination.
First I have to tell you that the fact that this book exists is a great story in itself. Author Stephanie Danler was a waitress in a popular eatery in the West Village, when she pitched her book idea to a customer. That customer happened to be a publisher, who was blown away by the story and thus, Danler was given an unprecedented 6 figure two-book deal by Knopf Publishing. It's basically Cinderella in author world. There was a lot of build up and hype over this and the book totally lives up to it.
It's the story of Tess- a brave yet scared and clueless 20-something who moves to New York, not to "be somebody" like many others who flock to the Big Apple to make something of themselves, but really, just to live and be in charge of herself. She gets hired at a popular restaurant and immediately gets eaten alive by her co-workers. The servers, bar tenders, back waiters and chefs at this restaurant are veterans of the fast paced world of restaurant work and Tess has to work her ass of in order to stay afloat.
The first half of the book was like all of your favorite shows in one: Naked and Afraid, Hell's Kitchen, Chopped and the Bachelor. Because you just know everyone is sleeping with each other when they work until midnight and then party all night afterwards.
There's an air of mystery or almost illusion in the way Danler writes that was magical to me. I love stories that make me think "Did that just happen?" and then when I reread more carefully, I understand the gravity of the scene. I love that subtle intensity, which is the biggest oxymoron, but there literally are times where you have to read between the lines to get to the meat of the story.
Tess notices the bartender, Jake and is sucked into this weird vortex with him and alpha-server, Simone. There's a lot of drama as you go back and forward, trying to decide if Jake is someone you want to make out with or knee in the groin and whether or not Simone is friend to admire, or an enemy to avoid.
After a lot of studying and practice, Tess emerges as a woman who takes the veil off her own eyes for once. She knows the ropes, stops taking shit, pushes her limits and starts asking herself for more, which I think is so empowering for women. It's quite the transition. The language and writing in Sweetbitter is powerful.
For one, I've never wanted to try truffles and oysters more in my entire life. The descriptions of the food are amazing. Second, the book was sexy and dangerous, but not in a dime store paperback way at all. It was hot, but in a smokey, corner-of-the-bar way where things are happening right in front of people but they aren't paying attention kind of way.
Sweetbitter is the first book that has really made me stop, drop and read in a long time. I literally didn't do anything besides try and figure out more time to read. That meant reading poolside, staying up until 1:00 a.m. and sneaking into the hammock and reading while the kids zonked out in front of Netflix after long days at the pool. A bookworm has gotta do what a bookworm's gotta do.
Step outside your comfort zone and order up a helping of this book, because you'll be asking for seconds.