When Tess moves to New York, she is seeking something that she can't quite define. She finds answers when she lands a job at a famous high-end restaurant: belonging, experience, and identity. Both the insular world of the restaurant and her fellow employees with their singular areas of expertise quickly have her in their thrall--an attractive bartender and a worldly server in particular. This book started out strong for me--the organized chaos of the behind-the-scenes machinations in the restaurant was richly drawn and I could feel Tess's confusion, headiness, and determination to master the secrets of this new world--even as we sense that it's a place where one could, but should try not to, get stuck. As the book progressed, however, it often veered into pretentiousness and a frustrating lack of growth or progression in the relationships of the characters, who we mostly saw through the haze of Tess's heavy drug and alcohol use. I wanted to love this, but it unfortunately fell flat.
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From the publisher’s description:
A lush, raw, thrilling novel of the senses about a year in the life of a uniquely beguiling young woman, set in the wild, alluring world of a famous downtown New York 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 first novel. Shot from a mundane, provincial past, she’s come to New York to look for a life she can’t define, except as a burning drive to become someone, to belong somewhere. After she stumbles into a coveted job at a renowned Union Square restaurant, we spend the year with her as she learns the chaotic, punishing, privileged life of a “backwaiter,” on duty and off. Her appetites—for food, wine, knowledge, and every kind of experience—are awakened. And she’s pulled into the magnetic thrall of two other servers—a handsome bartender she falls hard for, and an older woman she latches onto with an orphan’s ardor.
These two and their enigmatic connection to each other will prove to be Tess’s hardest lesson of all. Sweetbitter is a story of discovery, enchantment, and the power of what remains after disillusionment.