Lois Clary is a tech guru, living the supposed dream life in the Bay Area with a high-profile job in a tech company. But in reality, the job is frustrating and exhausting, leaving her with nothing to enjoy. One day she discovers a little food delivery company nearby that offers only a couple of spicy dishes and homemade sourdough bread. These foods prove to be manna to her soul.
Then she learns that the owners, who are Mazg, are being deported. Lois had been buying their food nearly every day, so before they leave, they give her the precious sourdough starter. Lois does not cook or bake. She has no idea how to do any of these things. But being a highly logical tech person, she digs in, researches, and figures it out.
However, there's something interesting and different about her bread, and she gains attention and is eventually invited to a very special, underground (figuratively) food market that's not yet open to the public, but which features a variety of cutting-edge foods and techniques. And things get crazy from there.
Sourdough's author, Robin Sloan, is also the author of the bestselling Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, which I read, but didn't love; it seemed twee and precious to me. But this one interested me, and I'm so glad I read it. There's a lot of satire going on here, both about the tech world and the food world. It manages to avoid some of the preciousness I found in Penumbra, and I found Lois Clary to be a congenial, all-too-human narrator, a young woman who's trying to find her way in life and does so through the unexpected gift of sourdough starter. There are magical elements, of course, because this is Robin Sloan.
My one quibble was with the ending, which I won't spoil, but I will say it felt rushed and not entirely believable. Still, the path there was most enjoyable.