Book - 2016
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                                             NATIONAL BEST SELLER

"Brilliantly written... Sweetbitter  is the Kitchen Confidential  of our time."
--Gabrielle Hamilton, author of Blood, Bones & Butter , New York Times Book Review

A lush, raw, thrilling novel of the senses about a year in the life of a uniquely beguiling young woman, set in the wild, seductive world of a famous New York City restaurant.

"Let's say I was born when I came over the George Washington Bridge... " This is how we meet unforgettable Tess, the twenty-two-year-old at the heart of this stunning debut. Shot from a mundane, provincial past, Tess comes to New York in the stifling summer of 2006. Alone, knowing no one, living in a rented room in Williamsburg, she manages to land a job as a "backwaiter" at a celebrated downtown Manhattan restaurant. This begins the year we spend with Tess as she starts to navigate the chaotic, enchanting, punishing, and privileged life she has chosen, as well as the remorseless and luminous city around her. What follows is her education: in oysters, Champagne, the appellations of Burgundy, friendship, cocaine, lust, love, and dive bars. As her appetites awaken--for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging--we see her helplessly drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle. With an orphan's ardor she latches onto Simone, a senior server at the restaurant who has lived in ways Tess only dreams of, and against the warnings of coworkers she falls under the spell of Jake, the elusive, tatted up, achingly beautiful bartender. These two and their enigmatic connection to each other will prove to be Tess's most exhilarating and painful lesson of all.

Stephanie Danler intimately defines the crucial transition from girl to woman, from living in a place that feels like nowhere to living in a place that feels like the center of the universe. She deftly conjures the nonstop and purely adrenalized world of the restaurant--conversations interrupted, phrases overheard, relationships only partially revealed. And she evokes the infinite possibilities, the unbearable beauty, the fragility and brutality of being young in New York with heart-stopping accuracy. A lush novel of the senses--of taste and hunger, seeing and understanding, love and desire-- Sweetbitter is ultimately about the power of what remains after disillusionment, and the transformation and wisdom that come from our experiences, sweet and bitter. 
Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2016
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781101875940
Characteristics: 356 pages


From Library Staff

wendybird Dec 19, 2016

Like legions before her, 22 year old Tess decides to leave her small town life and try and find her own version of the "go to New York City and live the dream" story. Her first steps are lucky and true - she lands a decent first job as a "backwaiter" at a famous Manhattan res... Read More »

SPL_Stephanie Oct 20, 2016

Tess, a confused 22 year old moves to the busy streets of Williamsburg in an attempt to rediscover and to redefine herself. After finding a job with the hottest restaurant in NYC, she struggles with the restaurant culture and quickly becomes immersed in the sex, drugs and drama that begins each e... Read More »

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Mar 20, 2018

One of the first books I have checked out that I didn't feel the need to finish. I read about half of it and it seemed to be going nowhere with no real storyline. Characters didn't catch my interest and just reminded me why I didn't enjoy working in a restaurant.

Oct 11, 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was wary at first, considering I am not one particularly interested in food literature or New York living; however, after reading a few chapters and getting into the style of writing, I was pleasantly surprised. The author has a beautiful way of prose writing and I felt like I could really relate to the main character solely through her descriptions of other characters in the novel and her mentality in general. I thought that the "lack of a plot" was intentional and was entirely part of the novel's glory. Not every character has to change or evolve in some way through the process of the book. I do believe that Tess learned a lot about the New York style of living and about the people and food, but she, as a character, didn't really change, and I think that was the point. Overall, I thought it was very enjoyable to read.

Oct 02, 2017

I never made it passed page 130. It's not that this a badly written book - the author is competent and somewhat talented ... but there was no plot, just vague storyline. The book would be better sold as 'scenes from a restaurant', rather than a story with any sort of plot to follow. Perhaps a more coherent story takes shape after page 130, but I just didn't care enough about the characters to get there.

jen480480 Jul 19, 2017

I had high hopes for this book, especially considering all of the hype, but I couldn't get past the first few chapters. The writing was spastic at best, the author did a poor job of introducing the characters and giving me a reason to feel emotionally invested in them (this is particularly true of the protagonist), and every chapter followed the same plot line. Yawn.

MichelleM_3 May 10, 2017

I really like the book. I like the author's writing. What I enjoyed the most about the book was the author's ability to transport the reader into Tess's world which is the restaurant. You kind of get sucked in the way she does. It all seems intoxicating. What I disliked about the book was that our main character, Tess, remains stagnant but I believe the author wasn't really interested in changing her too much. The book felt more focused on the restaurant's environment and how it can affect people; the customers and employees alike.

PinesandPrejudice Mar 20, 2017

This was one the worst books I have ever read. I finished hoping the main character would change, learn something, redeem herself -- but alas, she remained stupid, ignorant and annoying the entire time. The characters were pretentious, flat, dull, and unnecessarily "messed up".

The format was confusing -- especially if you try to listen to it on audiobook. There was nothing exciting. It was full of stupid, self-harming choices that I felt no sympathy toward.

Also, I had NO IDEA what time period this took place in which was ridiculously annoying.

In short, reading this book was a waste of my life.

athompson10 Mar 02, 2017

Every time I eat at Union Square Cafe, I'll remember this book.

Feb 22, 2017

I really enjoyed this book. I read it on vacation and had it done in 3 days. Some people describe her writing as lacking character development but I thought it was more about leaving details unsaid. You don't even learn her name for a few hundred pages, and that is intentional. It leaves it quite esoteric and to your own assumptions (and imagination) and I really enjoyed that. I love a mix of food-literature and a love story so this was a great mix of the two.

Feb 07, 2017

Not a bad book, but I went into it hoping for more food and less about the drunken revels of the main character. Not bad but not great, imho.

wendybird Dec 19, 2016

Like legions before her, 22 year old Tess decides to leave her small town life and try and find her own version of the "go to New York City and live the dream" story. Her first steps are lucky and true - she lands a decent first job as a "backwaiter" at a famous Manhattan restaurant, circa 2006. Told in the first person, we learn along with her about the wines of the world, oysters, artisan coffee, and other fine cuisine luxuries. On the other side of the ledger, Tess and readers see the grimy NYC stuff, too : cocaine, alcohol mainlining, cruel coworkers. There is nothing extraordinary, in a sense, in this coming of age American story or in its language - but what is worth notice is how true it all rings. The author has taken all this and made a compelling, adventurous read. There are glimpses of hope among the rubble, and love among the dirty bar towels. I'll be reading more Stephanie Danler, along with all the starry eyed reviewers for Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Elle.

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