Paperback: 313 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (January 5, 2016)
What could be better than being married to a restaurant critic? All those amazing meals at the best restaurants…pure nirvana, right? Well, Lila Soto, the heroine of Elizabeth LaBan’s charming new novel, The Restaurant Critic’s Wife (Lake Union Publishing; January 5, 2016), might tell you otherwise. Sure the food is heavenly, but the downsides are considerable—especially being married to a man who is obsessed with his job and paranoid to the point of absurdity about being “outed” from his anonymity. Add to the scenario the fact that Lila has given up her own career to follow her husband’s job to a new, unfamiliar city, and that she is now a fulltime stay-at-home mom—a gig she never aspired to, despite loving her kids—and you begin to see why Lila is doubting every life decision she’s ever made.
Though it is not an autobiography by any means, it can’t be overlooked that Elizabeth LaBan is herself married to Philadelphia restaurant critic Craig LaBan. “This book wouldn’t exist without my husband,” she says, “who brings excitement, adventure, love, and great food into our lives every day, and has always been open to my writing a novel about a woman who is married to a wacky restaurant critic. For the record, Craig is not obsessive or controlling like Sam—and Craig did not tell me to say that.” But, even if her main characters are fictitious, there is no denying that Elizabeth draws on aspects of her own life to lend a delicious verisimilitude to the novel.
The Restaurant Critic’s Wife is a charming portrait of the complexities of life that many women face when dealing with their marriages, their children, their friendships, and their careers. All the talk about exquisite food is merely the icing on a one-of-a-kind cake.
“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
Lila's life it turned upside down by love and family. She loves her husband and her children, but she misses her old life--mainly a demanding job she excelled at. In addition, her husband is the local newspaper's restaurant critic. A job that sounds amazing at first. But in his efforts to secure his anonymity, he creates a stifling environment for his wife.
Can she find a place of happiness with all the changes?
Relatable characters are paramount to any good story, and I felt connected to Lila early on. She is an emotional wreck, torn between awesome possibilities and not necessarily wanting to choose. Do any of us? She loves her kids, but are they enough? If she goes back to work, will she miss her kids too much or slowly destroy her family? Can she strike some beautiful balance?
Never once did she come across as whiny, complacent, or selfish. She knew there wasn't an easy decision. Where I struggled a bit was her husband. He was a bit hard to connect to because he could go from cruel to perfect. At times, I thought he was almost too good to be true. But at other times, I wanted to scream at Lila to take the kids and run. I think this lack of connection is based on my very fortunate background with men; I've never really known a man to waffle that drastically.
Oh, and if you love food, be prepared to be hungry during several scenes. I can't imagine what a treat it would be to get to taste all kinds of amazing food and never have to cook.
Somewhere along the way, I wanted a bigger something to happen, if that makes sense. But I never stopped caring about Lila or wanting to know her decision. That says a lot.
Rating: 3.5 stars
About Elizabeth LaBan
Elizabeth LaBan lives in Philadelphia with her restaurant critic husband and two children. She is also the author of The Tragedy Paper, which has been translated into eleven languages, and The Grandparents Handbook, which has been translated into seven languages.
Connect with Elizabeth
Thanks to TLC for my review copy.
Note: I received a complimentary copy for review purposes. A positive review was not requested or guaranteed; the opinions expressed are my own.
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