Sourdough by Robin Sloan
(MCD, 2017, 272 pages)
I enjoyed Sloan’s previous book, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, so when I heard that he had a new book coming out I immediately added it to my “to-read” list. Then it seemed like it was getting blurbed and buzzed about all over the place so I grabbed it off the shelf when I was at the public library (#librarylove). Sloan has a knack for writing unique books with a quirky twist and his sophomore novel only proved that.
Our protagonist is Lois, a software engineer whose life is pretty dull. She works and then she sleeps. Her job has gotten monotonous and she’s not really even seeking out pleasure in her life. But then one night she decides to try delivery from a “restaurant” in her neighborhood. It offers 3 things on the menu, a sandwich, soup, and then a combo called the “double spicy.” It’s as if the food changes her life. She starts ordering it every day and fosters something of a relationship with the two brothers who run the operation. When their visas expire and they have to leave, they make the decision to leave their sourdough starter with Lois, their “#1 eater.”
Lois has never made bread, but the responsibility of keeping the starter alive prompts her to start. At that point there’s no turning back. The bread is amazing and as she gradually introduces it to the people in her orbit she is encouraged to try selling it at the local farmers market. When she auditions for a spot she finds herself selected for an underground market that’s not open to the public. People are doing all kinds of experimental things with food down there… and her contribution is her sourdough (compliments of the unique starter that was gifted to her) and the robot arm she tries to program to help her make it.
It’s hard not to just try summarizing the book. But at the same time, the book isn’t the easiest to summarize. Sloan has a way of deconstructing our society and the things that fascinate us that intrigues you and keeps you reading. If you’re looking for an entertaining read Sloan is your guy. If you also happen to love reading about things that are food-related (which is ALWAYS me) you’re in for even more of a treat (and some sass toward “foodies”).
For a more in-depth breakdown of the book you can check out this review from the LA Times.