Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Book Review: Sourdough by Robin Sloan

In this quirky and sweet second novel by the author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, we meet Lois, a computer programmer, who moves from Detroit to San Francisco to work programming robot arms. However, she doesn't find this life to be fulfilling or interesting. It's just completely filled to the brim with work. One night, she orders take-out, and the man who delivers the soup and sourdough bread really makes her sit up and pay attention. As does the food. She's never eaten anything so nourishing, so delicious. She orders it every day for weeks. And then one day, the brothers who make the food have to move away. They did not get their visa renewals and they are not American (they are members of a country-less seemingly Eastern-European group that lives permanently abroad.) They bestow their sourdough starter on Lois and leave.

So Lois makes bread. And more bread. It's amazing bread. It might have a face in it. The starter might sing. And Lois applies to be part of a new food market opening up where technology is embraced instead of the trendy 18th-century ways of the other farmer's markets around town. Lois brings a robot arm with her to stir her dough.

Who is the mysterious benefactor behind the new food market? Is the sourdough starter magical? Where did it really come from? Will the brother bakers ever return? What will Lois do with her life?

This delightful book answers all these questions and more. It's a feel-good, sweet, but creative and fun story that takes unexpected twists and turns to get to its amusing conclusion. I felt like in Mr. Penumbra, the plot got a little away from Mr. Sloan, and this time around, he's simplified, very much for the better. It's a tighter story, with concise plotting, a shorter list of characters, but once again his trademark blending of new technology with artisinal products. If you're looking for a cheery book without any great trauma, this is perfect. And the cover glows in the dark.

This book is published by Macmillan, my employer.

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