Friday, December 8, 2017

Sourdough: a Novel

Sourdough: a Novel
By Robin Sloan
MCD, 2017. 272 pgs. Fiction

Robin Sloan's new novel, Sourdough, is a delightful blend of magical realism, quirky characters, high tech, and a very special sourdough start.  Lois Clary works at a San Francisco tech company where many of the programmers exist by eating (actually slurping) a nutritive gel named Slurry. She discovers a local restaurant that delivers sourdough bread and delicious spicy food.  When the restaurant closes and the owners leave Lois their sourdough start to tend she begins to bake.  Mastering the magic of mixing flour, water and sourdough starter, she shares the delicious bread with co-workers and then looks for a venue to sell bread through one of San Francisco's many farmers markets. She ends up with a stall at a high-tech food emporium where the vendors are all experimenting with innovative food formulations.  As the new market nears its opening day, complications arise when Lois researches the history of her unique sourdough starter and begins to understand its microbial complexity.

Sloan's novel is both fluffy and fulfilling.  You will want to have a loaf of really good bread on hand when you sit down to read it. SH


AJ said...

Lois Clary moves to San Francisco to work in the Tech industry trying to perfect a robotic arm. Most of her workmates subsist on a nutrient paste known as Slurry. One night Lois discovers a take-out menu on her door offering a double-spicy soup and sourdough bread, she immediately orders and is enchanted by the two foreign brothers who run the restaurant. When the brothers are forced to leave the country, they leave her the sourdough start and ask her to bake with it. Lois has never baked bread in her life, but when her loaves turn out great, she finds her life on a path she never expected.

I found this book to be a quick read with a charming story full of intriguing, quirky characters. But there is also a lot to think about such as how our work life fulfills us as well as what it means to be human amid the rush to automate everything, including food. My only complaint is that some of the character lines felt a little rushed, and I would have loved to see them developed a bit more.


AG said...

Lois Clary is good with programming. As a female programmer she has a lot to offer, so much so that she is recruited to San Francisco to work at a robotics factory that is trying to create robots that will replace all human repetitive movement. She soon finds that the work is mind numbing and her stomach always hurts. That is until she finds a take-out menu for Clement Street Soup and Sourdough, home of the double-spicy and the amazing sourdough bread that saves Lois's stomach and her soul. Soon she is the steward of the sourdough starter and finds that using her hands to make bread and eating real food, instead of nutritive paste, make her life more worthwhile. Suddenly she is part of the farmer's market crowd, making bread with her robot arm sidekick. What a difference a sourdough starter can make.

I thought this book was charming. It's an amalgamation of technology, home economics, rogue urban farmer's markets, and romance. It's a powerful homage to spongy carbohydrates and working with your hands.