An online marketing consultant, an avid reader of 400 + books a year. Professional reader, reviewer, and blogger. Enjoy ARCs and new releases.
By: Elizabeth LaBan
Publisher: Lake Union
Publication Date: 1/5/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars
A special thank you to Lake Union Publishing, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
What a fabulous front cover design. Depicting the upscale white tablecloth dining experience, with the child’s eating utensil. A balance of two worlds into one, similar to the overall novel's theme.
Elizabeth LaBan delivers a witty and modern contemporary look at today’s domestic dual working career couples; parenting, their choice of friends, identity, and how sometimes careers can jeopardize our social, professional, and family life—life can be major collision course. The bad with the good- the balancing act.
A RESTAURANT CRITIC’S WIFE is filled with delicious guilt-free literary humor, while exploring the struggles of motherhood, relationships, marriage, and some juicy restaurant reviews; culinary delights—catering to today’s most discriminating taste palettes, epicureans, and foodies.
LaBan is the author-wife of real, Inquirerrestaurant critic Craig LaBan, and her tale follows a young woman adjusting to motherhood, life in a new city, and living with the fact-crazed, anonymity-obsessed restaurant critic for the Philadelphia Record.
“It's really fiction, insists LaBan, whose protagonist, Lila, meets government reporter-turned-restaurant writer Sam Soto in New Orleans. They move to Philadelphia - a path that the LaBans took in 1998.”
Fans of Jennifer Weiner, Sarah Pekkanen, Jane Green, and Amy Hatvany are going to fall in love with this gem! Loved the opening of each chapter with a glowing, or not--review from Sam Soto.
Lila Sota, previously had a great job, a fabulous degree, and lots of travel as a corporate hotel crisis regional manager. She thrived on problems. No problem too big to solve. Her position was important and she traveled the world, a pro at crisis management.
She loved the power of her suitcase—representing travel, adventure, and not being tied down. She loved her life. She even broke off an earlier relationship, when things started getting serious. She could not consider marriage or children, and being tied down. She did not want to lose her independence.
However, later she met “the man”, changing her ideas about settling down. Sam, in New Orleans, while away on business. Slowly he became more important to her, and for the first time, and a baby on the way, she felt this was the “one”—she could share her life with and settle down.
As the novel opens, the couple Sam and Lila are married, where they reside in a nice suburban neighborhood—Colonial Court (so funny I stay often at a boutique hotel on Florida’s west coast-same name), with their three-year-old daughter, Hazel (A diva, a riot and a handful) … hilarious! Lila has another baby on the way.
They have moved from New Orleans to Philly, due to Sam’s job. He is a food critic and works for the local paper. He takes his job VERY seriously. Lila has left her power job, in order to stay home full time to take care of Hazel, and the soon to be baby.
After the baby arrives (Henry), she is mounted with the demands of two children, feels cut off from neighbors and friends, living in a new neighborhood, due to her husband’s position. She has desires of going back to work, feeling important, with sense of purpose. After the second baby is a little older, she has an opportunity to return to work--her old boss, allowing her to work on a contract basis part time.
Of course, Sam wants NO part of this. She often gets publicity--too risky with his job. She makes decisions to do what she feels is best, and does it. (without discussing) She wants to try it out. However, Sam has issues. His own mom left them, at an earlier age due to her unhappiness, after he was born. He wants his wife to be fulfilled. A constant struggle—with his own insecurities. Plus Lila has her own mom’s need for a professional career pushed on her.
Lila’s struggle to balance the demands of husband, kids, and job—plus Sam’s job--overwhelming--her former crisis management skills are being tested. What is a more crisis-ridden position, than a mother?
However, they have a big problem. Sam needs to maintain anonymity. He has to dress up in all kind of disguises, in order to drop into the restaurants, so one will recognize him. He drags Lila to all the fancy spots day and night; however, if he wants to review a certain dish, she cannot order what she really wants.
Sometimes he wants her to drag the kids, which can be embarrassing when you are breast feeding and have an opinionated, temper throwing, vocal, four-year-old. Plus, for a test, sometimes Sam carries in Mac n cheese in a box and asks the restaurant to prepare it. Total buzz kill; taking away the entire pleasure of the overall dining experience. From family members, friends, and colleagues – everyone is "used" as part of this charade. However, there are some cool creative restaurants-especially the one with snow sledding.
Due to the sensitivity of his job, he refused to allow Lila to socialize with her neighbors, have friends, or have their daughter attend birthday parties--she could be tasting their food. She is not even allowed to stop in for a quick bite at a restaurant she likes—a gossip columnist will document what she eats and how much---after her husband gave them a bad review!
Gals, you are going to LOVE Lila!. She pushes ALL boundaries. She is smart, sassy, driven. Living proof, you can be in a marriage and have differences of opinions. You can disagree. Most marriage couples would give up –walk away, with these high pressures.
Not, Lila---she is tenacious, and does not allow her husband, or obstacles to get in her way. In addition, even though Sam has his eccentricities and obsessions, he is preoccupied; you cannot fault him—he is passionate about his position as a restaurant critic—taking it to the extremes sometimes; however, in the end he loves his wife and family. Neither walk away from troubles and pressure—which is easily done in today’s society. A very good example you can have careers, a family, a marriage---it takes the drive of these two, and the love to get you through it. Stay in the fight—without giving up your dreams. “Life without love is useless.”
What a fantastic book! No one is just one thing. People can have two sides. A balance. There will always be another crisis. One can only hope, the good outweighs the bad.
Loved Sebastian, the gay waiter. I would like to see a continuation and a series, with more from this character. He is too good to end. A friend we all want. Plus love Lila, her job, and the funny Hazel. Enjoy the cool unique restaurants, food, and reviews. Sure there could be more from the Desperate Housewives--Wisteria Lane (Colonial Court) neighborhood; untold juicy stories to follow.
Furthermore, the author is married in “real life” to a restaurant critic with two small children--- with the insights and expertise to further enhance the fact/fiction realistic events. I had to laugh, thinking how in the heck did LaBane manage to convince her husband to write this novel-- while at the same time, trying to manage his reputation and keep "under the radar"?
Maybe she has some of Lila’s spunk. Just do it! Ask for forgiveness later… Love it. It works. 5 Swans (Stars)!