I meant to love this book. I don’t know what happened. Mood? Timing? Am I jealous of how young and talented Stephanie Danler is? Arguably. I’m not sure, but I did not love this book as much as I hoped to. Sweetbitter is a story about Tess, a twenty-two year old who has come to New York from some kind of bad situation from someplace that we never actually get the details of. She has the typical New York ambition to become… something… and somehow stumbles into a job in one of the best restaurants in the city. The story is a year of her life as a “backwaiter”, a job I did not know existed, but makes sense within the confines of a notable restaurant like the one she describes.
As we live with Tess in this year we watch her grow up and become… something. There are interesting pieces to the story; she learns all about wine and I learned a little bit too, she learns how to eat an oyster, she falls in love with a screwed up emotionally idiotic bartender (as one does) and gets to know the city through restaurant industry eyes. The writing is beautiful, but I was hoping for more Anthony Bourdain type insider details. Alas, no, and the drug scene is never anything I care about reading. I sense that this is wholly autobiographical, which tells me that Stephanie Danler is well on her way to being something, and I am sure there are great things to come from her.
Grade – B-