I was a bit nervous renting this one from the library. Unlike what seems like every other reader on the planet, I reallllly despised Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I didn’t like the plot, the incessant talking about boobs and Google, or the characters. And yes, I realize I’m a curmudgeon. However, it bothered me how the female character in that book was portrayed which meant that picking up Sourdough, featuring a female protagonist, was a bit of a gamble. Was I going to end up metaphorically throwing this book against the wall (a bit hard when it’s an audiobook)?
Luckily, a couple of books later and Robin Sloan seems to have learned how to write women. Maybe not all women, but this woman and the other female characters (yes! There’s more than one!) seemed realistic to me.
Lois is a young software engineer at a robotics company in San Francisco and when we first meet her, her life is pretty depressing. She works non-stop, sustains herself on a gel based slurry, and has no friends. When a new restaurant extends their delivery radius to include her apartment, she starts ordering from them and quickly becomes addicted to their sourdough and spicy food. The restaurant’s two brothers are friendly and when they have to suddenly leave the country, they leave her with their sourdough starter. Lois has never made anything more complicated than a box meal, so she’s not sure what to do with it at first, but slowly learns to bake bread. It quickly becomes clear that this is something she’s both good at and loves to do. Her newfound skills start to take her to some interesting parts of the city with oddball people at every turn.
Aside from the fantastic main character, I really enjoyed the zany energy of Sourdough. It’s got a bit of mystery to it combined with slightly implausible events and an introverted character starting to come out of her shell. It reminded me a bit of Where Did You Go Bernadette minus the heavy dose of irony. Sourdough is just a really great piece of fiction with a high energy pace and fun characters. I really recommend it to almost anyone, but you might want to make sure you have baked goods on hand, preferably sourdough bread. You WILL want to eat as you read.