A Québécois bestseller thankfully arrives for English readers.
One can see how this bleak bildungsroman attracted so much attention in Canada, despite the nihilism it wears on its sleeve, because it captures a singular voice as well as the blood, sweat, and tears of life in the trenches of a restaurant kitchen. Larue's debut novel, translated from the French by Strauss, reads like a cross between the dearly departed Anthony Bourdain and Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, combining the complicated life of a kitchen wretch with a highly literate voice. It’s also complicated by a narrator who's deeply troubled but endlessly fascinating in the manner of the Beats’ beautiful losers. Stéphane, an artist, college student, metal head, and inveterate gambler, who shares the name of his creator, is a loser by any definition of the word. He’s screwed friends, relatives, and a death metal band called Deathgaze over an album cover for which he’s been paid thousands but gambled away. At the behest of his compassionate cousin, Malik, our narrator gets his shit together enough to get a job as a dishwasher at a high-end Montreal restaurant. Stéphane’s tales of his struggles with addiction are as dizzying as any alcoholic memoir, while his drunken adventures—with a crew that includes his mentor and enabler, Bébert; a flat-out criminal named Greg; the ex he sort-of pines after; and other archetypal characters that flit in and out of his orbit—are captivating. “Nothing ever works out for me,” Stéphane moans to Bébert one night, and while it’s worth it to see if that’s true in the end, watching him screw up over and over is hypnotizing all by itself; Stéphane’s arc toward self-destruction is outright malignant.
A few shattering days in the life of a broken and desperate young man.