Book Reviews: ‘Sweetbitter’ is a novel to be savored, and ‘Mercy’ from father-son duo
by Stephanie Danler
(Alfred A. Knopf)
Tess comes to New York in the summer 2006, 22 and aching for adventure. Things seem to fall into place when she aces an interview at a famous restaurant in Union Square — unnamed, but bearing quite a bit of resemblance to Danny Meyer’s famed Union Square Cafe, where the author actually worked — and enters the world of fine dining that’s equal parts glamour and drudgery.
There she meets the worldly Simone, who teaches her about wine and food, and bad-boy bartender Jake, on whom she develops an insatiable crush. Though at first her fellow servers think she’s “too pretty” to make it in the cutthroat serving world, she works hard and eventually proves herself.
Meanwhile, she gets swept up in the hedonistic lifestyle of servers, with plenty of late-night partying, awash in alcohol and drugs. Her world opens up as she develops a palate for the finer food and wine found at the restaurant and nearby farmer’s market. The world seems to be at her fingertips, but that turns out to be an illusion, as she eventually realizes how constricting the service industry can be and how Simone and Jake’s lives aren’t quite as charmed as they first appeared.
Danler’s novel paints a visceral, evocative portrait of what it’s like to move to New York in your early 20s. Her spot-on descriptions of New York 10 years ago and Tess’ evolution from naif to world-weary server, all in just one year, elevate “Sweetbitter” — the opposite of “Bittersweet” — above its chic-lit trappings into an irresistible coming-of-age tale that can truly be savored.
— Mae Anderson
by Daniel Palmer and Michael Palmer
(St. Martin’s Press)
Michael Palmer’s son, Daniel, continues his father’s tradition of telling a compelling medical tale while also forcing the reader to question a difficult ethical issue — this time the right-to-life and doctor-assisted suicide — with “Mercy.”
Dr. Julie Devereux has been advocating changing the laws to give patients the right to die with dignity, but finds someone close to her suddenly facing that very decision. Her fiancee is paralyzed in a horrible accident and begins to contemplate whether he truly has a life anymore. He makes a decision, but appears to die shortly afterward from an undetected heart defect. The circumstances are suspicious enough that Julie becomes a prime suspect in his death.
Julie continues to dig to prove that he didn’t want to die, and it wasn’t at her hand. As she begins to investigate, she learns of other cases where the victim with a possible right-to-life issue died under mysterious circumstances.
Julie begins to question everything, including her own beliefs, as she battles to stay alive against a ruthless enemy who murders not for gain, but to relieve suffering.
Daniel Palmer has a gift for writing compelling thrillers involving realistic characters. His father’s legacy is in great hands.
— Jeff Ayers
Week ending 5/15/2016.
1. “15th Affair” by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Little, Brown)
2. “The Apartment” by Danielle Steel (Delacorte)
3. “The Last Mile” by David Baldacci (Grand Central Publishing)
4. “Extreme Prey” by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
5. “The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (Ecco)
6. “The Obsession” by Nora Roberts (Berkley)
7. “Everybody’s Fool” by Richard Russo (Knopf)
8. “LaRose” by Louise Erdich (Harper)
9. “After You” by Jojo Moyes (Viking Dorman)
10. “Troublemaker” by Linda Howard (Morrow)
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