Travel + Leisure "The Way They Cook in Sicily"
Literary Hub "Of Talisman and the End of Love"
Vogue "Hooked on Love"
The Paris Review "The Unravelers"
Travel + Leisure "A Pilgrimage for Peace, Answers, and Solitude—and Finding None"
Travel + Leisure "While Cruising the Nile, a Moment of Magical Solitude"
Shot from a mundane, provincial past, Tess comes to New York in the stifling summer of 2006. Alone, knowing no one, living in a rented room in Williamsburg, she manages to land a job as a “backwaiter” at a celebrated downtown Manhattan restaurant. This begins the year we spend with Tess as she starts to navigate the chaotic, enchanting, punishing, and privileged life she has chosen, as well as the remorseless and luminous city around her.
What follows is her education: in oysters, Champagne, the appellations of Burgundy, friendship, cocaine, lust, love, and dive bars. As her appetites awaken—for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging—we see her helplessly drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle. With an orphan’s ardor she latches onto Simone, a senior server at the restaurant who has lived in ways Tess only dreams of, and against the warnings of coworkers she falls under the spell of Jake, the elusive, tatted up, achingly beautiful bartender. These two and their enigmatic connection to each other will prove to be Tess’s most exhilarating and painful lesson of all.
Stephanie Danler is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the New School.