I was so blown away by Stephanie Danler’s debut novel, Sweetbitter. Every paragraph, every sentence is so decadent and thoughtfully crafted. Since closing the cover on the last page, I’ve been left craving Danler’s lush words. I can’t wait to read whatever she comes out with next (to be honest, I’ve now read all her published articles/essays to tide myself over until that time comes).
Sweetbitter is a coming-of-age novel about Tess, a 22-year-old who has come to New York to start her life. She stumbles into a job as a back-waiter at a renowned Union Square restaurant and we are thrown into the fast-paced and abundant lives of the employees therein. Along the way, Tess becomes entangled with two of the other waiters and develops an insatiable appetite for food, wine, experience, and living fast.
This is a story about discovery and excess, of love and finding yourself. And while the story itself is beautiful, it’s really the language that grabs hold of you and won’t let you go. If Danler has a talent for words, then she is a master in her descriptions of food, wine, and the marriage of the two.
Though the writing is exceptional, the story is still extremely approachable and the characters so real. In a story like this, I think it’s easy to make characters that seem drawn-out or a caricature of themselves, but Danler creates situations and dialogues that are so authentic.
BITTER: always a bit unanticipated. Coffee, chocolate, rosemary, citrus rinds, wine. Once, when we were wild, it told us about poison. The mouth still hesitates at each new encounter. We urge it forward, say, Adapt. Now, enjoy it.