“Taste, Chef said, is all about balance. The sour, the salty, the sweet, the bitter. Now, your tongue is coded. A certain connoisseurship of taste, a mark of how you deal with the world, is the ability to relish the bitter, to crave it even, the way you do the sweet.”
“I know you. I remember you from my youth. You contain multitudes. There is a crush of experience coursing by you. And you want to take every experience on the pulse.”
—Stephanie Danler, Sweetbitter
This book will forever leave a sweet-bitter, craving-it-always taste in my mind. I devoured it.
This coming-of-age foodie story is so much more than a young twenty-two-year-old girl moving to New York City on a whim, stumbling into a coveted job at a top NYC restaurant. It’s about remembering, having experiences instead of just wanting them, and oh, every page aches with loneliness—truly.
Tess, our main character, is unhinged, desperate for love and belonging, and she finds family—dysfunctional as it may be. Let’s just say “sweetbitter” is more appropriate than “bittersweet” for a title, because sweet-and-then-bitter is the direction of Tess’s journey. I’d say it’s more of a love story between Tess and NYC: all of the magic, fascination, and heartache were uncomfortably raw and emotionally honest. I couldn’t put it down. I truly felt as though I were reading someone’s most private secrets on the page. It was intimate beyond belief, even eating an apple in the street.
The dialogue was so real; the characters were damaged. I feel like I’m waking up from a dream, and all I can say is I have absolutely developed a fifth taste for fiction. This level of authenticity is the only flavor worth pursuing!
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DISCLAIMER: This is an R-RATED book with vulgar language. You can’t accurately capture restaurant culture—especially in NYC—without that grit. If this bothers you in any way, you may not want to read this book.