Sourdough, Robin Sloan: Book Review

This fun novel will probably leave you craving bread like crazy.

sourdough robin sloan book reviewFarrar, Straus and Giroux / Robin Sloan
Sourdough Book Cover Sourdough
Robin Sloan
Fiction
MCD Farrar, Straus and Giroux
September 5, 2017
Hardcover
262

Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company, codes all day and collapses at night. When her favorite sandwich shop closes up, the owners leave her with the starter for their mouthwatering sourdough bread.
Lois becomes the unlikely hero tasked to care for it, bake with it and keep this needy colony of microorganisms alive.  Soon she is baking loaves daily and taking them to the farmer's market, where an exclusive close-knit club runs the show.
When Lois discovers another, more secret market, aiming to fuse food and technology, a whole other world opens up. But who are these people, exactly?

Sourdough by Robin Sloan is a futuristic novel with a focus on food. Intrigued? So was I.

Sourdough was a book I didn’t expect to love as much as I did.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a reason why I decided to pick up this book. The premise – a software engineer who begins baking sourdough bread – was unique enough to spark my interest. I am a major fan of carbs, so a book with an intense focus on bread sounded like a rather enjoyable reading experience. This book was everything I wanted and more. The main character was complex, the world was like ours but with some futuristic twists, and it successfully executes the interesting task of combining technology with baking.

The main character, Lois Clary, is a young software engineer who has a promising career but a rather dull and unsatisfying life. Her only solace is ordering the “double spicy” from the two kindly brothers that run Clement Street Soup and Sourdough. However, this dynamic proves to be short-lived. Soon, the mysterious brothers have to leave San Francisco, but before they do, they gift Lois, their “number one eater,” with their special sourdough starter. This is when things get interesting.

This sourdough starter, which is needed to create sourdough bread, is kind of magical. As soon as Lois gets into the groove of regularly baking the sourdough bread, it proves to be a hit with everyone who samples it. She starts to realize that she is way more passionate about baking bread than she ever was at her job helping program robotic arms. To take her bread business to the next level, she decides to audition for an elite network of farmers markets located in the San Francisco area. Yes, you read that right. It is here that the reader starts learning more about the surprisingly intricate, secretive, and competitive culture surrounding food.

Lois ends up finding herself in a super cool, but also kind of weird, underground farmers market that boasts strange, one-of-a-kind food products. I found this concept so creative, and, like every aspect of this book, it was done in such a fashion that made it seem completely realistic. It is at this farmers market that food and science merge together with fascinating results.

This book sounds ridiculous, and it is. But it’s the perfect amount of ridiculous, and it’s executed amazingly well. Our main character, Lois, is likable and complex, and the other characters are each given their own distinct personality. The world that this book takes place is kind of like our present-day world, but a bit distorted, which keeps things interesting and a bit ambiguous. The plot is fast-paced, and I thought this book was a real page turner since I didn’t want to leave Lois and her sourdough-obsessed world. There is never a dull moment in this book.

This is one of the most purely fun novels I’ve read in a long time. Warning: you will probably crave bread like crazy while reading this book.

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Alicia LeBoeuf
the authorAlicia LeBoeuf
Contributing Writer
I'm a college student pursuing an English major and Communication minor. I love everything book-related and I'm a passionate writer.