Sweetbitter // Stephanie Danler
“I wanted to say, My life is full. I chose this life because it's a constant assault of color and taste and light and it's raw and ugly and fast and it's mine. And you'll never understand. Until you live it, you don't know.”
Sweetbitter is about a young woman, at the age of 22, who at the beginning of the book you find out is starting over - clean slate - by moving to New York City. She does so, completely alone, knowing absolutely no one, and with no plan for her future. She manages to land a job as a backwaiter, at a very pretigious Manhattan restaurant, and we then follow Tess, through every season of the year as she becomes a part of, and falls in love with, this whole new world and life that she has chosen. Her appetites awaken as she learns of oysters, champagne, French wine, cocaine, friendship, and the world of service.
Thoughts // Review
Where to begin with this book. This beautiful, lovely, enchanting book. Stephanie Danler, I want to have coffee with you and discuss so much. Your words are caustic magic and summer rain, and everything extreme and vibrant. I’m really at a loss for appropriate words. After I read this book, I watched an interview with Danler on YouTube in which she answered many questions regarding her novel, and even read some excerpts from her book. Needless to say, this made me fall in love with her and her book even more.
I had a lot of personal feelings come up as I was reading this book, because I also worked as a server in a fine dining restaurant when I moved to a new city for the first time in my life, at the age of 23. The year that I worked there were the most exciting, exhausting, depressing, and yet wonderful months of my life. The year working there was...Sweetbitter. So in reading this book, I felt pieces of myself falling into the pages and remembering the things that I learned in experiencing the same things that Tess experiences all over again
I loved everything about this book. The writing was gorgeous. Period. Danler is wickedly talented. The way she describes food, wine, sex, embarrassment & love - everything. I also LOVED the dialogue. It was strange, and realistic and the characters were all so unique and different. I loved the friendships and the way Tess grows in her relationships as the story progresses. I also loved the little bits of wisdom and love that the author would throw in there as if she was speaking directly to you. I'm going to share a quote that I loved, that captures the feeling of embarrassment in ways that everyone has experienced and everyone can relate to:
“Not being able to swipe into the subway when people are backing up behind you. Waiting for him at the bar. Leaving your purse open on a stool with a mess of bills visible. Mispronouncing the names while presenting French wines. Your clogs slipping on the waxed floors. The way your arms shoot out and you tense your face when you almost fall. Taking your job seriously. Watching the sex scene from Dirty Dancing on repeat and eating a box of gingersnaps for dinner on your day off. Forgetting your stripes, your work pants, your socks. Mentally mapping the bar for corners where you might catch him alone. Getting drunker faster than everyone else. Not knowing what foie gras is. Not knowing what you think about abortion. Not knowing what a feminist is. Not knowing who the mayor is. Throwing up between your feet on the subway stairs. On a Tuesday. Going back for thirds at family meal. Excruciating diarrhea in the employee bathroom. Hurting yourself when you hit your head on the low pipe. Refusing to leave the bar though it's over, completely over. Bleeding in every form. Beer stains on your shirt, grease stains on your jeans, stains in every form. Saying you know where something is when you have absolutely no idea where it is.
At some point, I leveled out. Everything stopped being embarrassing.”
That is just one amazing example of how completely honest and real this book is, in a way that makes you as a reader feel understood and recognized.
The romance was authentic and raw, and everything happened exactly as it should have. And I even loved the ending. Sweetbitter is a perfect name for this book, and although the ending was definitely a little on the “bitter,” side, it was perfect, and necessary, and honestly happened the way it needed to.
If you haven’t already picked up this book, seriously do it. It’s beautifully complex and will make you feel all of the feelings. I will warn you; however, that it is rather vulgar, and I would say definitely for a more open minded, adult crowd (in the best way).
Thank you Stephanie Danler for writing one of my favorite books of all time.
I rated this book 5/5 stars