The Restaurant Critic’s Wife by Elizabeth LaBan
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publishing Date: 5th January 2016
Source: Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Literature/Fiction (Adult)
Lila Soto has a master’s degree that’s gathering dust, a work-obsessed husband, two kids, and lots of questions about how exactly she ended up here.
In their new city of Philadelphia, Lila’s husband, Sam, takes his job as a restaurant critic a little too seriously. To protect his professional credibility, he’s determined to remain anonymous. Soon his preoccupation with anonymity takes over their lives as he tries to limit the family’s contact with anyone who might have ties to the foodie world. Meanwhile, Lila craves adult conversation and some relief from the constraints of her homemaker role. With her patience wearing thin, she begins to question everything: her decision to get pregnant again, her break from her career, her marriage—even if leaving her ex-boyfriend was the right thing to do. As Sam becomes more and more fixated on keeping his identity secret, Lila begins to wonder if her own identity has completely disappeared—and what it will take to get it back.
The Restaurant Critic’s Wife – this book sounded absolutely just like my cup of tea, so I didn’t hesitate to request it on NetGalley. There were restaurants and food involved, and I do like some good food in my books! I was also thinking, with one of the main character being a restaurant critic, we can expect some brilliant anecdotes.
I start reading every book full of hope that I’m just about to discover the next gem for my bookshelf. Unfortunately, in the course of reading this novel, I was loosing my hope. I couldn’t help but asked myself what this book is about and what was it written for, because – shortly – it describes a year in life of Lila, Sam and their two children. Almost every page was full of their daily activities, which included nursing Henry, going out eating, nursing Henry, falling out, nursing Henry, looking for a place to nurse Henry and nursing Henry. I was sure that when I’m going to read about nursing Henry again, I’m going to start screaming. You know, books are about something, there is plot, there is a plan, the story is taking us somewhere, there are twists and turns – which I didn’t find in this book. It started and it ended, and that’s all – it could easily be written about me, my daily routine, me bringing my daughter to kindergarten every day and fighting with my husband.
What made the reading even more complicated for me was the fact that I didn’t warm to the characters at all. Lila was a woman who had no idea what she wanted, Sam… Oh God, please don’t let me start on Sam. He was egoistic, childish and focused only on his work, and I had a feeling that either everything is like he wanted it to be, or it’s not right, and he wanted to decide about his wife’s life as well, and I don’t know if he was so focused, or so short – sighted that he didn’t see how many things he’s cutting his family from. Lila wasn’t allowed friends because of his work. Lila wasn’t allowed to go to work because of his job. Lila must have to come with him to all the restaurants – because of his job. Oh no, I had this one wrong – Lila must have to come to the restaurants he was testing only when SAM wanted her to come. His dressing – ups were on the verge of absurd and the way he took himself and his job seriously only made me roll my eyes and dislike him even more. He was so frustrating with his obsession about keeping quiet about his job, and I couldn’t understand why couldn’t he just write under different name? Why not only say people that he worked in a paper, without specifying what exactly he was writing about? Why make Lila’s life a hell with constant nagging and not letting her go back to work and only promising they’re going to talk about it? He made Lila’s job sound so, so unimportant in comparison to his own job and I hated it. And basically forbidding her to have friends and life other than taking care of the children. Yes, I wanted to punch him. In the face.
So shortly, the whole book is about Lila debating if she should come back to work and about Sam getting more and more paranoid about his job. Am really very disappointed, have expected a totally different story, maybe focusing more on the restaurants and testing itself. I kept reading hoping for something to happen, for something to change my mind about it but sadly, it didn’t happen.
Also, the writing style couldn’t win me over. It was dragging on and on, and even though it was easy to follow, it didn’t keep me hooked. The never – ending river of words didn’t draw me in, as for me there was nothing significant to the story, and eventually I found myself skimming through some of the paragraphs. The storyline was weak in my opinion, and the characters were annoying.
So yes. As opposed to the people mentioned in the Acknowledgements, like Jennifer Weiner, who loved this novel, and other people who SO GOT Lila’s story, I didn’t get it.