- Published: 2016
- Number of pages: 316 pages
- Format: Epub
- File Size: 0.46 MB
- Authors: Elizabeth LaBan
People magazine included The Restaurant Critic’s Wife on their Great New Fiction list and hailed it as “thoroughly entertaining.”
Lila Soto has a master’s degree that’s gathering dust, a work-obsessed husband, two kids, and lots of questions about how exactly she ended up here.
In their new city of Philadelphia, Lila’s husband, Sam, takes his job as a restaurant critic a little too seriously. To protect his professional credibility, he’s determined to remain anonymous. Soon his preoccupation with anonymity takes over their lives as he tries to limit the family’s contact with anyone who might have ties to the foodie world. Meanwhile, Lila craves adult conversation and some relief from the constraints of her homemaker role. With her patience wearing thin, she begins to question everything: her decision to get pregnant again, her break from her career, her marriage—even if leaving her ex-boyfriend was the right thing to do. As Sam becomes more and more fixated on keeping his identity secret, Lila begins to wonder if her own identity has completely disappeared—and what it will take to get it back.
From Booklist Lila never saw herself as a stay-at-home mom. She liked her unencumbered life and high-intensity, high-profile job as crisis manager for a major hotel chain. Then she met food writer Sam Soto. Before too long, she has two very small children and is living in a row house in Philadelphia, where Sam has taken a job as a restaurant reviewer for a local newspaper. But she misses work, and Sam is going to extremes in his efforts to preserve his anonymity. He doesn’t like her getting too close to the other moms in the neighborhood, less they have any ties to the food industry, and he adopts ever-more-elaborate disguises to wear in the restaurants he visits. Frustrated, Lila has her own ways of regaining control; for example, she goes behind Sam’s back to accept some work assignments as a favor to her ex-boss. Though Sam’s obsessiveness is not quite convincing, readers will like Laban’s humor and breezy style, and many will relate to Lila’s struggle to balance the demands of husband, kids, and job. —Mary Ellen Quinn Review “A tender, charming, and deliciously diverting story about love, marriage, and how your restaurant-review sausage gets made. The Restaurant Critic’s Wife is compulsively readable and richly detailed, a guilt-free treat that will have you devouring every word.” —Jennifer Weiner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Good In Bed, Best Friends Forever, and Who Do You Love “Elizabeth LaBan’s novel The Restaurant Critic’s Wife stirs in love and intrigue making for a savory delight that pairs perfectly with your armchair. Prepare to be charmed!” —Elin Hilderbrand, author of The Rumor“A heartfelt and relatable look at a woman navigating the difficulties of marriage and motherhood—while struggling to maintain a sense of self. Written with charm, honesty, and an insider’s eye into a usually hidden slice of the restaurant world, it’s a winning recipe.” —Sarah Pekkanen, internationally bestselling author of Things You Won’t Say“In her debut novel for adults, Elizabeth LaBan cooks up a delectable buffet about motherhood, friendship, ambition, and romance (albeit one in need of a little more spice). She captures the essence of life with small children (smitten with a side of hysteria) and weaves a relatable, charming love story with the flair of an expert baker turning out a flawless lattice crust. LaBan’s four-star story has the satisfying effect of a delicious meal shared with friends you can’t wait to see again.” —Elisabeth Egan, author of A Window Opens“Two things engage me when it comes to fiction—characters I want to spend more time with, and details, the juicier the better, from a world I’m curious about but not likely to ever experience. Elizabeth LaBan’s novel The Restaurant Critic’s Wife has both…The best part? Ms. LaBan really is a restaurant critic’s wife. Her husband writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer—which means that the wonderful details in the book both ring true and occasionally are.” —New York Times, Motherlode “Author LaBan (The Tragedy Paper), who is married to a restaurant critic, excellently makes the joys and difficulties of young motherhood feel real on the page. Readers who are in the thick of raising a young family will enjoy, as will foodies looking for insight into the restaurant world.” —Library Journal “The narrative flows effortlessly, and the dialogue is engaging and evocative. Lila and Sam’s love and devotion, despite expected bumps along the way, provides a sensitive look at rediscovering yourself and your marriage.” —Publishers Weekly “Thoroughly entertaining.” —People“LaBan’s writing…is like a dish of smooth custard—straightforward and a treat to take in. The detailed meal descriptions are likely to spark some hunger pangs, and the spicy and sympathetic Lila makes a perfect meal companion.” —Washington Independent Review of Books “Elizabeth LaBan’s new novel tells a lively, often hilarious, story of one woman’s struggle to deal with her semifamous husband’s career and its side-effects…[Her] characters are fascinating, and the premise of her story is unique and guaranteed to keep readers flipping the pages…A light, fun read that would be perfect for book clubs.” —Wichita Falls Times Record News InStyle Book Club Pick “[In The Restaurant Critic’s Wife], we get an accurate portrayal of the pressures of restaurant reviewing. To outsiders, it must seem like the greatest job on earth. In reality, as Lila points out in several dining scenes, it is a grueling task to assemble tasters who understand they can’t order what they want to eat, and your host will be anything but social.” —Philadelphia Inquirer“The Restaurant Critic’s Wife pulls back the veil on the declining art of ‘educating the reader versus badmouthing the restaurant.’” —Louisville Courier-Journal
Reviews from Amazon users, collected at the time the book is getting published on UniedVRG. It can be related to shiping or paper quality instead of the book content:
⭐ Set in Philadelphia, PA, my hometown as well as my current residence, I loved references to my city’s landmarks and I am very familiar with many of the neighborhood areas listed in the book. Laughed out loud in some instances; fortunately, I was at home and not on public transportation!. Loved reading the experiences of a young family moving into a new city , establishing themselves in a neighborhood where the neighbors become more of surrogate family than strangers. I thought the author captured the joy of living with a partner you love, the adventure of learning about a new area and establishing yourself there, and the give and take required in any relationship (friendship, family life). The author, who in real life IS married to a restaurant critic, notes that the scenes in the book are fictional; cannot help but wonder. I thoroughly enjoyed the book; I paid more for it than the price currently listed and thought it was a bargin. I don’t know whether or not I will re-read it, but sure enjoyed it while I was reading it and I look forward to reading more from this author, even if the setting is not Philadelphia, PA!
⭐ *spoilers ahead*To be honest,I only got this book after a recommendation from a family member-I hadn’t even read any reviews and had only briefly read the overview, which is unlike me. It became clear to me, shortly after starting the book, that this probably wasn’t going to be my kind of story. But I kept reading to give it a chance, and became intrigued enough with Lila’s life and how it was going to pan out. So I kept going.I’ll admit that it became a bit overkill to read about all the food and just how much eating was taking place…I get it, the title lets you know there’s going to be a lot about food, but seriously!. And often times I didn’t even feel it was necessary to write that they were eating. For example, the many, many times she described taking the children out and stopping for lunch, or ice cream or ordering take out. That had nothing to really add to the story except to leave me wondering how it is physically possible to eat that much in one day.The author eventually hooked me in the second half of the book. I was so ready for the ending that I just knew was coming…..and then it didn’t. Let’s just say, I hated Sam, A LOT. I would read anything about him and instantly want to punch him in the face. I felt like the author continually drove home the point that he was a terrible, selfish, often times emotionally abusive person and I just kept waiting to see how Lila was going to fly away from all that. The author certainly built up the whole empowered woman thing with Lila. I was ready and waiting for it. When it did not end that way, I was incredibly disappointed.I feel like she went way off character with Sam and Lila in the end. He suddenly was supportive and no longer emotionally abusive?? Huh?! She stays with him?! And the last bit about taking her wrapped suitcase, which she cherishes, and putting it next to the rest of her family’s in the closet- it was just too cheesy for me. Dang. I give it three stars because it did hook me, but the ending just didn’t do it for me.
⭐ I liked this novel,. in spite of the main character letting her selfish and slightly mad husband get away with not allowing her any friends or to go back to work.How Lila copes with this forms the plot of the novel. She sneaks off and makes friends, sneaks off and does a little work for her old boss and when her identity becomes known in the media, her husband, Sam, goes beserk. A restaurant critic, he doesn’t want anyone to discover his identity – to the point where he becomes totally paranoid. A revelation toward the end of the novel shows how silly he is. There was no real attempt to persuade me that Sam was a man to fall in love with. His character is not well defined – beyond his madnesses – although he is shown to love his children. This, however, does not stop him wanting to prevent his three year old from going to birthday parties.Not a bad read but something missing.
⭐ I really wouldn’t recommend this book. I disliked all the characters and the writing was mediocre. The story was so boring! The whole premise is that this restaurant critic wants his identity to be kept a secret so he won’t let his wife make any friends or work. The whole time I just kept thinking no one cares that much about who you are! I have literally never read a restaurant review and wouldn’t base my decision to go to a restaurant on someone’s review anyway. It’s one of those jobs that will be extinct soon. Hard pass on this book.
⭐ Warning: spoilersI devoured this book, but now I’m feeling a bit sick to my stomach.The entire novel focuses on how Sam has put Lila into all these awkward situation, caring more about doing his job and really their lives HIS way, but after a giant fight where he’s like “You didn’t used to need this much reassurance,” suddenly it’s all good and he gets to continue being a controlling jerk because he’s slightly more lenient now. I don’t feel like Sam learned anything or showed any remorse for making his wife feel desperate and aloneThat said, I also hate Lila. Your husband won’t “let” you make friends? He won’t “allow” you to go back to work? I find that kind of thinking infuriating- you are a grown woman who can do what she wants and knows what’s reasonable, so when you do something reasonable like make a friend or going back to work part time, own it and be upfront about it, don’t hide it because you know it’ll make your husband mad because he didn’t give you permission first.So, it was a fast read, but if you’re into that whole “equals in a relationship” thing, this book might make your head explode.
⭐ This is another of those books that somehow, page by page, manage to string you along, keep you reading, waiting for something significant to happen, even though you have other things that need your attention. But nothing happens, and soon you’ve finished the book, wondering, “is that all?”To further frustrate this reader, the book is chock full of irritations. The names of the kids, for example: Who, in this day and age, names a little girl Hazel? Or a boy Henry? Or Russel? Or Pamela? Those names are from the great grandparents’ and grandparents’ generations, respectively. Maybe one could accept the rare anachronism as in real life children. But every single child? Another irritation: Sam is a selfish jerk who cares little for the feelings of others – especially those of his wife. And the wife, Lila, is a wimp who makes token resistance, but ultimately caves every time she tries to stand up for herself. And the little girl, Hazel, is a spoiled, indulged brat who throws a tantrum each and every time she thinks she doesn’t like something – which is almost constantly. I found myself thinking the kid needed a good paddling instead of the ongoing appeasement on the part of her mother.I could go on, but you get the gist. Don’t bother.
⭐ I see most reviewers disliked Sam, the restaurant critic, due to his paranoia that he will be recognized in restaurants. Yes, he is insensitive to his wife’s need for friends, and later on, her wish to work again. I found the story interesting but not wildly so. I fail to understand how Lila, the wife, could be so active shortly after her caesarian. Also, she does not seem all that interested in her brand new son. She breastfeeds, and this fact is often mentioned because a baby can be demanding in situations awkward for the breastfeeding mom. I did not find the book “funny” in any way. In fact, nothing much happens except poor Lila’s problems with her paranoid husband. However, let me mention that in one of her (amusing) books Ruth Reichl (former editor of the late lamented Gourmet magazine) also told of the extreme lengths she went to to disguise herself when she was a restaurant critic. It IS a real problem for a serious critic! But of course Sam goes way too far, and sometimes his disguises were in no way funny — just unbelievable. I had some trouble with the ending — the book held little in the way of exciting developments, so I waited for some interesting or shocking development at the end. It sort of fizzles towards a happy ending, and Sam’s sudden about-face regarding Lila’s predicaments did not convince. A nice light read, but nothing great.
⭐ I’m a big fan of LaBan’s book THE TRAGEDY PAPER, (a YA) so I read her step in the adult market eagerly. She brought veracity to the book because her husband is a restaurant critic. This is a story of the family’s relocation from a city and community wife loved to a neighborhood that was foreign and strange. LaBan’s subtle humor on observations of everyday life comes through, her “endless” pregnancy, her neighbors, her husband’s obsession to keep his job super private. Observations are often bittersweet as she struggles to find her place in a new beginning, along with a sense of self. I liked that in the end LaBan re-enforces old-fashioned values of kindness and acceptance, although the road is rocky on the journey. LNM
⭐ I have been super busy lately but those afternoons when I could just sit in and read this book provided the perfect escape. It’s an easy read with a cunning slapstick humor, peppered with endearing events reflecting every life. My first thought was “here is just another story of husband and wife interaction and occasional conflict with a unique career twist; But, it is so much more than just food and menus, it’s personal struggle, growth, judgement, misunderstanding, misreading of situations and reconciliation….I had no idea how hard life could be for a food critic. I recommend this book to anyone young and old but most especially to moms and grand moms. The good news is while we were all lonely at one time or another raising our kids, we learned our family and friends are every thing. As I finished the book I realized what a great comedy it could be with the right cast and director. Hopefully someday I’ll get to go see it told on the big screen. Hey Adam Sandler!
⭐ The characters in this book frustrated me. Sam is selfish and Lilah has no spine. Sam takes a job as a food critic without consulting his wife and moves the family from New Orleans to Philadelphia. Strike one. Then, so that he is able to maintain his dream job the way he wants to, he insists that she give up hers. Strike two. When Lilah tries talks to him about how unhappy she is, he tells her what she wants to hear on two occasions and every other time he doesn’t even pretend that he isn’t disregarding her. Strike three. He remained completely unlikable throughout the entire book, even at the end when they finally “settled” things. And Lilah! Every time she thinks about talking to Sam, she’s always so worried about upsetting him that she puts a lot of things off until it’s nearly too late. A crisis manager who can’t stand up to her own husband. Pitiful.The book was well written, and the lack of insight into Lilah’s relationships with anyone except her husband does a good job of conveying how isolated she feels. But neither character is relatable to me, and Lilah never managed to garner my sympathy.
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