The Restaurant Critic’s Wife, Elizabeth LaBan
Genre: women’s Fiction
There were parts of this book I loved – and parts that really got on my nerves, so much so that if Sam and Lila were in front of me I would have wanted to shout at them, smack them, tell them to grow up.
So, they fell in love, along came Hazel, and then its all change. Sam gets the job of his dreams while Lila has recently given hers up for motherhood. They move to a new city, and that’s hard with a toddler, and then Lila’s pregnant again so its all change in the Soto household. All that change is tough, and along the way the Lila and Sam that met and fell in love we in danger of getting lost. Lila has become whiny, though in a way I understood, she’s gone from being in a crisis driven job where she was well respected and always saving the day, praise all round, to motherhood in a new town where she knows no-one. ( No one praises you for being able to feed a screaming, teething baby, entertain a toddler, get the house clean and make the family dinner. And know instantly where there’s a clean shirt and spare socks!)
Sam’s being a jerk, obsessed with his new job and insisting really she can’t make friends because he’s put so many vetoes on her. Well, when you first chat to someone new how do you say “do you or your family or friends own of work in a restaurant?” You can’t can you, so how is she supposed to meet them. He’s put a ban on the new neighbours too, so she’s isolated and becomes almost introspective. Her daily life is full of banality and tedium so she snaps up the slightest chance for anything new, and of course then things turn out wrong.
Sam is obsessive about his secrecy, and I understand a bit – if people knew who he was it would affect his work. Perception is all, it doesn’t matter if he says he’s unbiased, even if he and his wife are good friends with the owners, even if his daughter is a playmate of the head waiters family or something…( I’m using hypotheticals here not experiences from the book BTW) There’ll always be those convinced he’s writing a good/bad review for other reasons than honesty and integrity. ( A bit like book/product reviewers eh? I’ve been accused a few times of bias as I get ARC’s and products for free. ) He just needs to suck it up a bit more though, as there will Always be those who won’t believe he can’t review with integrity ( as I’m learning). He doesn’t though and his disguises, funny at first, get more and more odd. For someone who doesn’t want to draw attention to himself surely they would make it worse? ( kitchen staff convo : have you seen that guy on table seven, with the fake moustache and the weird glasses? – Ah that’s Sam Soto in another one of his disguises!!)
In among that though is a real story about coping with change, about how easy it is to grow apart, how hard families really need to work to stay together. There’s historical family issues on both sides too affecting their actions. Then there’s the neighbours and friends, and we see towards the end that the face they present to the world isn’t really the one that’s true, they we are more than just one facet. That human nature part made interesting reading for me. I enjoyed seeing how slowly they were falling apart yet able finally to talk, to work together instead of pulling in opposite directions. I remember how isolating life can be with babies and small children, how some days seem to revolve around their needs and wants, and as a mum you’re desperate for another adult to talk to. When the only one is your husband and he’s either working, planning work, writing reviews and insisting you keep anonymous that’s a recipe for disaster.
There were some interesting sides too – I loved the food and restaurant descriptions, their experience at Kite, ( I think that was it – the one with all the ice) where Lila thinks they’ve been made but says nothing as she’s starving, and doesn’t want the two hour wait they’re first told they face. Sam’s reviews heading each chapter. The Fairy tea party – I want one, and a jar of fairy dust!!
So overall its a mix, bits I loved, bits I found drawn out and overdone, and then the look at real life and real people, motives, and endings. It must be tough thinking people want to be friend’s with you just because you can help make or break their business. Much the same as books people want different things from restaurants. One of our local favourites is a Greek one where the table is your for the night, and there’s entertainment by the family after they’ve finished serving. A meal can be easily drawn out to a couple of hours and yet we’ve been with friends who want one course straight after another, no pause for a break, and to be out after an hour or so…they hated it.
Stars: Four. A fun read, even if I did want to slap them both at times…
A Kindle Unlimited read