Sourdough

Robin Sloan, 1979-

Book - 2017

"A new novel about an underground food community by the author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore"--

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FICTION/Sloan, Robin
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Subjects
Genres
Domestic fiction
Published
New York : MCD / Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2017.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
259 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9780374203108
0374203105
Main Author
Robin Sloan, 1979- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* The starter comes into Lois' life unexpectedly. She had moved to San Francisco to work as a software engineer, teaching robot arms to perform any job functions you can imagine. Her only comfort after another demanding day was ordering soup and sourdough bread from two brothers running a food-delivery service. But when the brothers are suddenly forced to leave the city, they give Lois the starter they use to make their bread, instructing her to keep it alive. Suddenly her life spins in a different direction. This inventive novel, from the author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (2012), is filled with crisp humor and weird but endearing characters. As Lois takes her first tentative steps into the world of baking, her loaves appear to have faces in the crust, and the starter—Is it singing?—takes on a life of its own. Then, after she gains entry into a mysterious underground farmers market on the cutting edge of food technology, demand for her special sourdough begins to rise. At once a parody of startup culture and a foodie romp, Sourdough is an airy delight, perfect for those who like a little magic with their meals, as in Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate (1992). Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In this follow-up to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist in first fiction with best-book claims to fame, San Francisco software engineer Lois Clary is bequeathed a sourdough starter by her favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurateurs when they leave town fast owing to visa problems. Soon she's baking up a storm and imagining her own market blending food and technology. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In the buoyant, touch-of-magic prose that characterized his Alex Award-winning debut, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Sloan introduces us to Lois Clary, a software engineer at an ambitious, San Francisco-based robotics company, whose life gets fantastically redirected by a sourdough starter. Lois is bequeathed the starter by Beoreg and Chaiman, proprietors of Clement Street Soup and Sourdough, who light up her 'round-the-clock work schedule with their wonderful food until they're forced to leave town fast owing to visa problems. (The brothers belong to the fabled Mazg community, a bit of whimsy that adds to the novel's charm.) Soon, Lois is planning her life around baking bread, building the perfect oven and eventually getting invited to join a mysterious new food emporium that aims to redefine how we eat. She even works out a deal to buy a robot arm from her company to help make her in-demand bread, which is significant; Lois isn't rebelling against technology but moving forward in her own way. In her quest, she gets help from a club of women all named Lois and enticingly still-in-touch Beoreg. VERDICT How many novels can boast an obstreperous sourdough starter as a key character? A delightful and heartfelt read. [See Prepub Alert, 3/3/17.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

San Francisco's technology and food cultures collide and collude in Sloan's latest novel, following Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Robotics programmer Lois Clary subsists on an unappetizing diet that includes frequent servings of Tetra Pak–wrapped nutritional gel until she discovers the delicious, restorative comfort food sold at Clement Street Soup and Sourdough, a makeshift take-out enterprise operated by two immigrant brothers. Visa issues force the brothers to leave the country, but before they go they give Lois a crock of sourdough starter along with a CD of the music of their people, the mysterious Mazg. Lois's first attempt at baking bread produces an imperfect loaf with cracks in the crust that form the lines of a human face. Improving with practice, she earns a coveted place at Marrow Fair—an innovative farmer's market offering Chernobyl honey, microbiotic lembas, and algorithmically optimized bagels—but there's one condition. Marrow Fair's manager wants "robot bread." Lois must figure out how to program a robotic arm to perform kitchen tasks that require a delicate touch. Lois also faces another, more worrisome problem: the starter has become temperamental and demanding: underfed it looks depressed; overfed it spreads, grows tendrils, and forms faces with disturbing expressions. Through narrative and email correspondence, Sloan captures contemporary work environments, current reality, and future trends. It's a busy novel, crammed with some excellent bits (how robotics work, how farmers markets work) and some bits that are just creative hyperactivity (like the biogeneration of lembas). The book offers much to savor, but like the starter it proves rich and buoyant at first, then overreaches. (Sept.) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Like Sloan's debut, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, this novel twists new and old worlds together. General Dexterity, a robotics company in San Francisco, burns out its bright young employees on 12-hour shifts and feeds them a gray sludge called Slurry. Enter Lois Clary, the company's new software engineer, fresh from Michigan, whose social life is at an all-time low. Alone each night, she cheers up when Beo, the takeout guy, delivers delicious, spicy soup from Clement Street Soup and Sourdough. He's nicknamed her "number one customer!" for her loyalty. But Beo and his brother, the cook, are in a hurry to leave the country, and one evening they deliver more than her order—they give her the family's starter for their sourdough bread and urge her to carry on their tradition. Lois enters the competitive foodie world of hip San Francisco with a recipe from long ago and the means to change her life. She also gets some help from the women of the Lois Club, who offer comic relief and some sage advice. Laced with clever pop culture references, this humorous, richly plotted novel features unforgettable characters and imparts an important lesson: you can't succeed in the modern world without respecting the old one. VERDICT Highly recommended for all YA collections.—Georgia Christgau, Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY Copyright 2018 School Library Journal.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Enduring a virtually solitary existence working for an ambitious software company, an exhausted coder is bequeathed a sourdough recipe from sibling bakers who are forced to close their shop, a gift that leads to a new vocation, a legal dispute and a venture into a secret market that fuses food with technology. By the author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"A new novel about an underground food community by the author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A software engineer is left a sourdough starter from sibling bakers after they're forced to close their shop, a gift that leads to a new vocation, a legal dispute, and a venture into a secret market that fuses food with technology.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

From Robin Sloan, the New York Times bestselling author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, comes Sourdough, "a perfect parable for our times" (San Francisco Magazine): a delicious and funny novel about an overworked and under-socialized software engineer discovering a calling and a community as a baker.Named One of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Southern LivingLois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers quickly close up shop. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves to the General Dexterity cafeteria every day. Then the company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market—and a whole new world opens up.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

*One of Amazon's 20 Best Books of 2017*Named one of the best books of 2017 by NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, Barnes & Noble, and Southern LivingIn his much-anticipated new novel, Robin Sloan does for the world of food what he did for the world of books in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour BookstoreLois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it. Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up. When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly? Leavened by the same infectious intelligence that made Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore such a sensation, while taking on even more satisfying challenges, Sourdough marks the triumphant return of a unique and beloved young writer.