Review: Sourdough by Robin Sloan

sourdough cover

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Sourdough is, without a doubt, one of the highlights of the year. Reading it felt downright therapeutic. If you have read any of Becky Chambers’ books you probably know the exact same feeling – there will be tears, but there will be joy, too. So much joy. It brought me some solace after a rather hellish week.

I explained the process by which living sourdough starter gave the bread its texture and flavor. Garrett’s eyes were wide with disbelief. “It was … alive,” he said softly. Wonderingly. He, like me, had never before considered where bread came from, or why it looked the way it did. This was us, our time and place: we could wrestle sophisticated robots into submission, but were confounded by the most basic processes of life.

Also, it made me really, really hungry.

Lois is a programmer, working in one of those hellish Silicon Valley startups that encourage sleeping in the workplace and eating nutrient paste instead of proper meals. Her whole life is changed when she decides to order the Double Spicy from a takeaway place owned by two brothers who belong to the mysterious Mazg people. The soup and sandwich bring some much needed joy into her life, and when the brothers are forced to leave, they give her their sourdough starter and some music.

I have come to believe that food is history of the deepest kind. Everything we eat tells a tale of ingenuity and creation, domination and injustice—and does so more vividly than any other artifact, any other medium.

The sourdough is a character all of its own. It bubbles. It sings. It likes music. It makes faces appear in the crust. Lois can tell when it’s happy, or sad. She cares for it, and it cares for her in return. I really enjoyed how much comfort baking gave her. It helped her with stress from work. With finding new friends. Getting to sell bread at a futuristic farmer’s market. In short, it turns her life upside-down. If there is a fault, it’s that I didn’t enjoy the second half quite as much as the first, but I can’t really put my finger on why.

It also made me not just crave, but practically lust after sourdough bread. Seriously. This is food porn at its finest. Don’t read when hungry. Or if you can’t get sourdough bread.

Thematically, Sourdough is a story about the joy of simple food – both eating and making it – in a modern world that’s often disconnected from it. About how food connects people. Told through magical sourdough. And if you think it goes “modern ways of making food bad, tradition good” you’d be wrong, it’s a much more nuanced take than that.

Now excuse me while I go shout about this book from the rooftops.

Enjoyment: 5/5
Execution: 4.5/5

Recommended to: foodies, people who need some joy in their life, fans of slice of life fantasy and magical realism
Not recommended to: uhh…those who can’t have sourdough?

3 thoughts on “Review: Sourdough by Robin Sloan”

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