A Life Worth Living: Sourdough Book Review
Robin Sloan’s Sourdough is a creative and interesting reminder of the importance of culture in human life. The main character, Lois, seems to be living an extremely successful life. She is young and well-educated with a lucrative and prestigious job. However, what she is missing is revealed by her encounter with an ethnic restaurant run by two immigrant brothers. She quickly finds that she loves the food and is eventually entrusted with the care of the brothers’ sourdough starter. Even though Lois had a successful career, she finds that learning how to bake with the starter fills gaps in her life she didn’t know existed.
Once entrusted with the task of keeping the mysterious sourdough starter alive, Lois discovers purpose outside of merely clocking in and out every day. As Lois begins to share her baking creations with her coworkers and neighbors, she begins forming connections she never imagined. Without intending to, Lois finds herself surrounded by community. She begins to understand that a truly successful life is not marked by one’s status within a company, or the numbers on a paycheck, but the personal connections one makes along the way. Previously, nothing in Lois’s life excited her; everyday was a dull repetition of the last. She struggled to get through the day just so she could collapse in bed and start again the next morning. However, upon receiving the sourdough starter, Lois gains aspect to her life that makes her uniquely ‘Lois’.
Readers are reminded that it is often the simple things, such as baking, that can easily be mass produced for convenience, that bring the most joy. Slowing down enough to appreciate all that life has to offer. Before being gifted the sourdough starter, Lois made nearly every choice in her life based on convenience. Her kitchen remains unused as she subsists solely on prepared food delivered to her door and a nutrient-rich food substitute called Slurry. However, once she falls in love with baking, Lois begins to do things that are decidedly inconvenient for the sake of a relatively simple thing that she loves. Her love of sourdough bread is simple, almost childlike. She loves the taste, shape, and smell of the bread and finds community simply by sharing the thing she loves with those around her. Finding a thing that she enjoys for its own sake opens up her life in miraculous ways.
Lois’s journey throughout the book illuminates the difference between the vibrant and eccentric pleasures available when she takes the time to bake and get to know her neighbors, and the cold, sterile world of her career. Her life had become devoid of the simplest pleasures, from human connection to enjoying food as she focused every once of her energy on her career. Even though Lois’s journey is merely to preserve the starter, she discovers simple pleasures that bring joy into her life. Whether it is a meal scarfed down too quickly to enjoy the delicate flavors, or the neighbor that has never merited more than a courteous head nod in passing, Sourdough shows that humans need more than just convenience to survive.