Dear Sourdough by Robin Sloan:
I decided to listen to your audiobook on a whim one day after seeing its gorgeous cover design and reading its enticing blurb: a story about a software engineer at a robotics company in San Francisco who is given a seemingly magical sourdough starter and ends up uncovering a secret and potentially sinister underground food market? To say I was intrigued would be an understatement. I expected you to be a fun, enjoyable read.
I did not expect you to become a new favorite of mine. Which you absolutely did.
For some reason, you just really resonated with me when I read you. I didn’t expect to be so enthralled by your story like I was. I listed to you at the beginning of the chaos that was April 2020, and you were just the book I needed to read in the midst of everything that was happening.
To start, your premise is so creative. Your plot went in a direction that completely took me by surprise, but I was so into it. Sloan did an excellent job of slowly introducing quasi-magical elements bit by bit. I say “magical” for lack of a better word–you’re not quite a fantasy book, and you’re not quite science fiction, but you’re also not quite realistic either. You actually start off kind of sad and serious: Lois, the main character, realizes she is unhappy with her coding job because she spends all of her time working and has no other interests, friends, or hobbies outside of work. When the mysterious sourdough starter arrives in her life, the bizarreness of the plot gradually unfolds. Yet your wackiness somehow never felt too over-the-top or ridiculous.
“Here’s a thing I believe about people my age: we are the children of Hogwarts, and more than anything, we just want to be sorted.”Sourdough by Robin Sloan
I also loved all of your little details, especially the Lois Club. Lois was always told growing up that she could find a little club of Lois’s in any city she moved to (also, THIS IS A REAL THING?!?!), and she finds one in San Francisco to meet with on a regular basis. Something about this little group of old ladies named Lois made me so happy. I want to join a Holly club!
Moreover, I adored Sloan’s writing. It is witty and honest and the voice of Lois really shines through. Quotes like these made me think about baking from a whole new perspective:
“Baking, by contrast, was solving the same problem over and over again, because every time, the solution was consumed. I mean, really: chewed and digested. Thus, the problem was perhaps the point.”
“There had to be a scale somewhere–the scale of stars, the scale of far-off cosmic super-beings–upon which we ourselves, we humans with our cities and bridges and subterranean markets, would look like the lactobacilli and yeast.”
You’re a book about so many things: discovering your passion, following what makes you happy, listening to your gut instincts, re-centering yourself. And baking bread, of course: you taught me more about yeast than any science class I’ve ever attended. More than your wild plot, I suppose that this deeper aspect of you was the thing I found most surprising: you resonated with me at a time when everything around me was uncertain. You reminded me of the value of carving out time in a busy schedule to do the things you love, and that you never know where life will take you.
You were so wacky and whimsical and witty and entertaining that I found myself constantly thinking about you in between reading you–and I still find myself thinking about you all these weeks later. I can already tell that I’ll be rereading you in the future.
Until next time, Sourdough.