Sourdough by Robin Sloan


My book club read for this month was Sourdough, the latest novel by Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour bookstore. I hadn’t read any of this author’s work previously, but I was drawn to the title and premise of this one and was looking forward to reading something a little different.

The protagonist is Lois Clary, a software engineer based in San Francisco who spends her days tirelessly coding, allowing her little time for human contact. She does however enjoy some contact with the two brothers who run the local takeaway of which she is a frequent customer. So frequent in fact, that she is known as their ‘number one eater’. As a result, when the brothers are sadly forced out of business, they have a special delivery for Lois in honour of her loyalty. She ends up in possession of their sourdough culture, the one capable of producing their famous bread, along with the instruction necessary to produce her own sourdough. This is easier said than done for Lois, who is very technologically minded, and not much of a baker. Here the reader follows Lois on her baking journey, as she learns how to keep the culture alive, to help it grow and eventually to bake with it. And for Lois, who has recently dedicated the majority of her time to her new job, the sourdough gives her a distraction and something to put her passion into, eventually catching others attention.

Sourdough is an odd little story, and one that is hard to describe. It is a relatively light read which I managed to complete in a weekend, and one which captured my attention with its unusual premise and intriguing characters. I was interested in the development of Lois’ character, and liked the idea of this young woman left drained from her demanding work who finds enjoyment in something unexpected. I also liked that Lois story was interspersed with correspondence to Lois from the brothers, which provide additional background to their stories. Events gradually get stranger as the novel progresses, and Lois discovers that she has become part of a fantastical world, a world which has a sinister side. This can certainly be described as a quirky story, as we see how the worlds of baking and modern technology combine in surprising ways. This is an eccentric novel, with a whimsical quality and a touch of sci-fi and magical realism, which kept my interest.

Having not read Robin Sloan’s previous books I can’t comment on how his latest offering compares but it is certainly one to look out for if you were looking for an unusual read with an original concept. An enjoyable, odd little book, and one which leaves you with a craving for some sourdough of your own…

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