Jul 14, 2019EljayJohnson rated this title 0.5 out of 5 stars
Oh, where to begin? First, an admission: for about the 1st third of the book, I was suckered in. Danler has some gifts with language and I liked the breaks from the narrative for the 2nd person passages and the stream of consciousness-type unidentified dialogue pieces. I was certainly interested in the premise too: a very young (22) midwest girl moves to New York and begins work in the (as the novel avers) best fine-dining restaurant in the city. Here was my first disappointment - when I'd heard about the book originally, I thought she was breaking into the food business, but she busses tables instead. What began as a mildly interesting awakening to adulthood novel, becomes so pretentious and overblown it was truly laughable. Tess is a terrible bus girl; she becomes obsessesed with the sexy mysterious bartender; she worships at the shrine of the older, intellectual waittress; she drinks excessively and does lots of drugs. And it's written like this is the stuff of the rarest of life experiences and an agonizing and artful existence, instead of a bunch of trite tropes. This has been compared to the wonderful Kitchen Confidential, but it has virtually no food descriptions and those that it has are just more blather. It's been compared to Bright Lights Big City, but it doesn't have that far superior novel's depth and self-criticism.
For reasons beyond me, this book had a ton of buzz even before it was published and has received almost unanimously great reviews by professional. I'm encouraged that there are many negative reviews from actual readers; it seems like a great number of readers are seeing through the ridiculous self-congratulatory pretension.
The final insult was the ending. The inexplicable episode with Howard. The reveal of the revolting connection between bartender Jake and sublime waittress Simone. Danler threw a bunch of crap at the wall to see what would stick.