By Robin Sloan
(Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 272 pages)
Lois Clary works endless hours as a software engineer. Day after day, it’s the same routine: work, skip lunch, work some more, lament over the lack of a social life, and order the absolute best spicy soup and sandwich from Clement Street for dinner. Go to bed. Wake up. Repeat.
When the owners of Clement Street are forced to leave the country due to visa issues, Lois is baffled to learn they have gifted her, their favorite customer, with their sourdough starter. Lois barely uses her kitchen and offers zero experience in any cooking arena. How is she supposed to keep the starter alive?
The good news is that all the starter needs is a little flour and water, as well as a sound system to play the starter’s favorite music from the special CD thrust into Lois’ hands along with a ceramic crock of gray glop. After a few hours of light sourdough research, Lois finds her starter bubbling, singing and even emitting strange smells. She mixes the ingredients, bakes the bread and is floored when her first two loaves turn out beautifully.
Lois treats the starter like a beloved child. She even builds an outdoor oven and sells loaves to the chef at her workplace, who gives her the green light to share her baking skills with everyone who shops at the local farmers market. Suddenly Lois must decide between her stable, yet dull, job as a software engineer or a new adventure as a naturally gifted bread maker with an incredibly rare and special sourdough starter.
“Sourdough” is the story we all secretly dream about. Could we leave our mundane lives and take a leap of faith in the direction of our newfound passion? Sloan takes readers on a thought-provoking journey to answer that question and asks them to consider the irony that it takes a living concoction of yeast and microbes to force Lois to consider living her best life.