‘Sugar and Salt’ balances sweet romance and a traumatic past | Books

“Sugar and Salt” is a beautifully written story that, like its title, is both sweet and poignant. Susan Wiggs doesn’t shy away from tough subject matter, but balances it masterfully with themes of hope and resilience.

Wiggs’ portrayal of San Francisco feels so authentic that one might find yourself looking for the fictional restaurants she created the next time they’re in the Bay Area.

Truly, the setting is so delightful and the scenery vividly described that I would recommend this book to anyone who considers themselves a foodie or enjoys watching shows like “Chef’s Table” in their spare time.

redemption, food, love

Margot, or “Margie”, our main character, is incredibly determined to open a Texas barbecue restaurant in the competitive downtown San Francisco market. Haunted by a mysterious and traumatic past, she is still able to realize her dream.

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Margot moves her new restaurant into a building with a fascinating history shrouded in activism and the civil rights movement. It is here that she meets neighboring bakery owners, Jerome Sugar and his mother, Ida.

His connection and friendship with Ida are instantaneous, but an accident when first meeting Jerome makes their attraction to each other a bit more confusing.

As the story unfolds, we get a glimpse of Ida’s whirlwind ’70s romance as well as Margot’s heartbreaking past in Texas. Wiggs is able to pull together a massive amount of moving parts, timelines, and characters effortlessly.

Small town charm

The small business community that Margot finds as neighbors has a cozy aesthetic that is so charming that it feels like a small town, despite being located in big city San Francisco.

Perdita Street acts almost like a character herself, seeing Ida through tragedies like racism, the Vietnam War project, and the complications and joys of being in love for the first time. It also offers respite to Margot, whose tremendous success resurfaces moments from her past that she wishes she had long forgotten.

Learning the story of Perdita Street while seeing it provide hope for the characters’ future is a poignant thread throughout the book that I found very moving.

You will want more

“Sugar and Salt” tackles tough, triggering subject matter without dwelling on the page’s traumatic events or making one feel totally hopeless. The resilience of the characters and the overall timeline give the story luminosity despite its darker moments. Although the writing is descriptive and rich, the pace of the book always left me wanting more and didn’t drag.

This was my first Susan Wiggs novel, and I will definitely be coming back for more. Although “Sugar and Salt” is part of a series following the local business owners of Perdita Street, I didn’t find myself at all confused or late picking up this second episode first.

I’m sure the details of the book will be even richer for long-time fans, but “Sugar and Salt” is a novel I would recommend to almost anyone. That said, I plan to go back and read the first book in the series just to spend more time in the local shops on Perdita Street.