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.
I will admit it: I'm a foodie. I love cooking, reading cookbooks, reading about food, dining out, and reading foodie fiction. I've often thought it would be great fun to be a restaurant critic for a vegetarian magazine. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to review The Restaurant Critic's Wife.
This book was a terrific read. I enjoyed reading about the life of Lila and her husband, restaurant critic Sam. Their trips to restaurants, sometimes incognito, were fascinating.
I really liked Lila as a protagonist. I empathized with her as she settled into life in a new city, especially as she left her job to be a stay-at-home mom. Sam was difficult at times (controlling!), and a big part of the novel centered on their marriage.
This book felt real to me. It had humor, it had touching moments, and it had multi-dimensional, interesting characters.
I would recommend The Restaurant Critic's Wife to other readers who enjoy contemporary women's fiction or a foodie novel.
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.