Lila Soto finds herself in a world that she never really paid much attention to and then suddenly realizes that she does not know how exactly she even came to this point in her existence. A former public relations and crisis management executive for a successful, large hotel chain, Lila now finds herself a faint image of her past. After moving to Philadelphia from New Orleans for her husband Sam’s new job as the food critic for the local paper, a very pregnant Lila must learn to juggle not only the new surroundings, but also putting career on hold, her toddler, role as a wife and a new social landscape.
Sam becomes quickly obsessed and ridiculous about remaining anonymous in their new city–he wants Lila to make no new friends out of fear of being discovered by someone in the food world and lectures her constantly on how he does not want to expand their circle to protect his identity. This exclusion even includes restrictions on meeting and socializing with the other mothers in the neighborhood and Lila finds herself very much alone. When Sam begins insisting on wearing elaborate disguises to the restaurants he has to review, Lila seems to reach a breaking point. Sam is not a likable character at the beginning of the novel except for the flashbacks detailing how the couple met and ultimately fell in love. He is authoritative, selfish and out of touch with his wife. All of this sets up Lila for her personal reflection, her questioning of her choices and her ultimate rediscovery of self.
Lila runs into her old boss who expresses an interest in her returning to work and she begins to accept projects without telling Sam, who even as money is getting tight and Lila seems to be spiraling downward inside, doesn’t want her to return to her career. The Restaurant Critic’s Wife is full of themes of self-doubt, contemplation over choices, very real life issues that so many women face and also love, humor, triumph, forgiveness and self-discovery. Author Elizabeth LaBan is an excellent writer and Lila feels like your best friend that you want to see succeed. The story is well-developed, relatable and the truths that it touches upon make for a great read.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.wordpress.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Lake Union Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.