Look no further: the Betches have found the book of the summer (besides ours, obv). But beware of reading Stephanie Danler’s debut novel Sweetbitter on an empty stomach. You’re going to want to eat an inordinate amount of cheese and drink multiple bottles of wine while reading, but tbh breaking your summer diet is worth it for a taste of this book.
To set the mood for all of you avid readers, imagine running away from home at the age of 22 and landing in New York City. That’s the heroine of Sweetbitter, Tess.
Knowing no one except a friend of a friend who offers her a dingy room in Williamsburg, Tess does what every runaway 22-year-old would do: applies for a job as a waitress. Flash forward two months, and she’s sucked into the restaurant world, into a life of partying, drugs, sex and really damn good food.
Sweetbitter captures both the mystique and the reality of food in New York. The novel, modeled after author Stephanie Danler’s own experience as a waitress in New York, offers you betches the chance to experience the exhaustion, fights, drug use, love and drama of the restaurant life, including every role from chef to sommelier. Without having to like, work.
Danler’s first published book really feels like a peek into her own past. In fact, Sweetbitter got published after Danler passed the manuscript to one of her regular customers, a senior vice president at Penguin Random House, while serving at Buvette in the West Village. It doesn’t get more real than that.
You’ll follow Tess’ journey to understand wine (there’s more to life than just rosé). You’ll cringe in embarrassment (and maybe solidarity) as she blacks out and sleeps with a coworker. You’ll experience secondhand munchies as she scarfs down a chanterelle mushroom-soaked omelette after a night of too much cocaine.
But perhaps most importantly, you’ll taste the sad melancholy that seems to permeate the lives of the servers, cooks, bartenders and dishwashers in the food industry. This book is fucking real. And as you turn the pages, you’ll fall into some pretty dark shit.
Sweetbitter is a book about hunger in the most literal sense, but it’s more about the hunger to experience life. And it’s fucking good.