Sourdough by Robin Sloan

BLOG“Here’s a thing I believe about people my age: we are the children of Hogwarts, and more than anything, we just want to be sorted.”

How do you describe a book like Sourdough? When I first read the synopsis I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but I did know two things: it sounded odd and quirky, which I really like in books, and it is written by the author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which I liked very much. So I was quite happy to sit down and enjoy the journey, one that turned out to be thoroughly enjoyable and as odd and quirky as the synopsis.

Sourdough follows Lois Cleary, a software engineer at a robotics company. It is a position she gladly accepted but her new life in San Francisco leaves much to be desired, as her days are consumed by work and leave her mentally exhausted. Her one enjoyment comes from a sandwich shop with mouthwatering food, which becomes a daily indulgence and leads to a friendship with the two brothers who run it. When the shop closes, Lois is gifted the starter for the delicious sourdough bread, and she soon discovers a love of baking that leads her on an adventure that includes a secret and innovative farmers market.

I found this to be such an enjoyable novel and couldn’t help but smile throughout. It is quirky with compelling characters and a surprising amount of depth. Lois’ experiences and feelings towards her work are very relatable as she grapples with reality versus expectation, finding passion in life, and a sense of community in a new place. I am a big fan of Robin Sloan’s writing style, which I enjoyed in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and was happy to find again in Sourdough. This is a fun and at times thought-provoking novel that I would recommend to fans of odd and quirky reads.

Sidenote: do not read while hungry, and beware that it will make you want to take up baking. 😉

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

BLOG“What do you seek in these shelves?”

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore follows young protagonist Clay Jannon whose search for employment during an economic downturn leads him to a night shift position at a 24-hour bookstore run by the elderly Mr. Penumbra.  The store consists of two parts: the front section that carries regular books, and the back section that carries strange volumes that can only be borrowed by a select group of customers.  When Clay stumbles upon a pattern in customer book selection, he sets to uncover the mystery of Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore with the help of his friends Neel and Kat, along with a few others. Their discoveries lead them on an adventure filled with code breaking, secret societies and examines the relationship between new technology and old school books.

This is Robin Sloan’s first novel.  It was originally a short story that he posted to his website and later developed into a novel, which has gone on to receive a number of literary awards.  Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore has two of my favourite things: bookstores and a fun mystery.  It starts out with a small mystery in a little bookstore and expands into a great adventure well outside the bookstore walls, where it plays with the conflict between the high tech digital world and the old school world of books and paper.  The main character Clay Jannon is a likeable protagonist and his friends, roommates, and customers are a good group of supporting characters.  The main star and focus of the novel is the adventure itself, and the characters serve as a great vehicle to carry us along.  The author’s use of humour in the interactions between characters as well as in Clay’s internal dialogue is well done and provides a fun and amusing element to the story.  At times it does feel like the book tackles too many different subjects and steps a bit too far away from the main plot line in order to reach its conclusion.  However, Mr. Sloan’s concept for this book worked well overall and it was a very enjoyable read.

Favourite quote: “Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in.”