Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Restaurant Critic's Wife (Elizabeth LaBan)

As a Philadelphian, I've read (and depended on) quite a few of Craig LaBan's restaurant reviews.  So I was very interested in "devouring" his spouse's novel The Restaurant Critic's Wife.  In her acknowledgments, LaBan writes that "For the record, Craig is not quite as obsessive or controlling as Sam -- and he didn't even tell me to say that."  Which is good, because the restaurant critic (Sam) in the book is quite the unlikable character.

There's really not much of a plotline here.  The wife in this instance, Lila, has just moved to a close-knit Philly neighborhood with Sam and her two children, Hazel and Henry.  As a very well-known critic, Sam is obsessed with keeping his identity secret.  This sometimes just takes the form of wearing disguises when he goes out, but more often than not takes on ridiculous methods: wanting Lila to ask any potential friends if they own a restaurant, refraining from showing her face in public, and not wanting her to go back to the work she loves.  The entire novel basically just recounts Lila's banal days as she tries to follow Sam's "directions," but she obviously wants more for herself.  It's not difficult to figure out the ending here.

With such an unlikable character at its forefront and not much of a plotline, it's hard to discern what the point of The Restaurant Critic's Wife really was.  However, the writing is good, so this is a great book to throw in your beach bag when you just want to zone out in the sun.