Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

IMG_2667“Any business transaction—actually any life transaction—is negotiated by how you are making the other person feel.”

A raw and gritty coming of age story, Sweetbitter explores a year in the life of a “backwaiter” in an upscale NY restaurant. At twenty-two Tess leaves her hometown and everything and everyone she knows for a move to NY and a fresh start. She doesn’t have dreams of stardom or any of the typical motives/reasons for which many people move to the big city. While she is unsure of what exactly she is in search of, the fresh start in a new city leads her on a journey of mixed experiences and self-discovery. We follow her story over the course of her first year in NY, as she experiences food, wine, and relationships.

“It’s an epidemic with women your age. A gross disparity between the way that they speak and the quality of thoughts that they’re having about the world. They are taught to express themselves in slang, in clichés, sarcasm—all of which is weak language. The superficiality of the language colors the experiences, rendering them disposable instead of assimilated. And then to top it all, you call yourselves ‘girls.’ ”

There are many times when I don’t fully understand the hype around certain books, but fortunately this is not one of those times. Sweetbitter is an incredibly engrossing book and one that I could sit and read without putting it down or taking breaks. It captured my full attention from the beginning as it dove into Tess’ journey, which is filled with a lot of excess. The author takes us into the behind the scenes world of the employees at an upscale restaurant, exploring the cuisine along with the chaos and personal relationships. The characters are flawed and not likeable and there is no distinct plot, and yet I still couldn’t put it down, which really speaks to the quality of the writing. The true strength of this novel is the way in which the author perfectly encapsulates the feeling of loneliness and the need to belong. A well written and impressive debut novel.

“’It’s a dangerous game, isn’t it? The stories we tell ourselves.’”

2 thoughts on “Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

  1. It’s such an important skill to be able to capture that specific emotion in a way that makes the reader connect it to their own life. Do you find that happening in a lot of the books you read in a way that just floors you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said! I can’t say it happens in a lot of the books I read, but certain books will come along and amaze me, and I will spend so much time rereading passages and marking quotes. I will have to put together a list of books that have done just that! 🙂


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