Review: Bread and Butter by Michelle Wildgen

Bread and Butter

Bread and Butter is a delicious combination of hope and despair. Filled with mouthwatering descriptions of restaurant food and heart-warming scenes between loved ones, this is a wonderful story about the joys and challenges of starting a business, sibling rivalry, and being a grown-up.

Title: Bread and Butter
Author: Michelle Wildgen
Publication Date: February 11, 2014
Category: (Adult Fiction) Contemporary / Food / Realistic Fiction
Source: NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Harry is back in his hometown of Linden, Pennsylvania, to follow in his older brothers’ footsteps of opening a restaurant. Leo and Britt, having been in the restaurant business for years, think that Harry is taking on more than he can handle. So when Harry’s new restaurant is a success (and when Harry and Britt start falling for the same girl), the three brothers begin to feel the competition and strain in their relationship.


Wildgen did wonders with the character-building; the third-person narrative she uses to shed light on each of the three brothers’ thoughts is surprisingly intimate, and I became increasingly attached to these three throughout the story. I really enjoyed Leo’s quiet presence, Britt’s sophisticated charm, and Harry’s boldness, and I like how these characters are inherently good even though they start cracking apart later on.

The time spent with each of the three brothers is also divided nicely; each brother’s concerns and storyline are individualized and cultivated, and in the end integrated into the overall progression of the story. The humanness that Wildgen shows through all her characters is both optimistic and realistic in the sense that they fall down and get back up again, a refreshing difference from stories that only tell of the falling down part. It’s a pretty even battle between hope and despair, which is more fun than seeing one emotion overpower the other.

The plot is slow-going, and it took me a few chapters to really get into the story. (And awkward side note: I actually thought Britt was a girl when I first started reading and got really confused.) But the restaurant business is full of tension and excitement, so Bread and Butter picks up the pace soon enough. There’s a lot of action, dialogue, and introspection, and everything is just so well-balanced. It’s fascinating to read about what goes on behind a restaurant, from building a menu to keeping tabs on customers, and the restaurant setting naturally builds up a lot of tension and animosity, contributing to the pace of the story.

And oh my god the food is just incredible. Roasted pears, oyster fritters, lamb’s neck, chocolate cakes… can I just jump into the book and take all the food please? Reading about food is almost good as eating food, and I felt so content from eating all the textual food in Bread and Butter. Delicious!


Food, family, friends – Bread and Butter‘s got it all! This well-balanced story incorporates delicate family ties, fragile romances, and simmering emotions, with lots and lots of tasty food. If you like slice of life stories, food, and sibling rivalry, give Bread and Butter a try!


13 thoughts on “Review: Bread and Butter by Michelle Wildgen

  1. Hmm. The fact that the book is titled Bread and Butter but has spaghetti on the cover bothers me a bit. But whatever.

    It sounds like this book will make me really hungry for foods other than beans and soup, which is all my mom is feeding me right now >_< She likes to make gigantic pots of things, and yeah… Anyways! Besides the delicious foods, I'm also really interested in the characters, who seem like they are excellently written.

    And if I do read this book (I probably will), it will be the first book I've ever read that is about the restaurant business! I never would have thought that a book about any kind of business would be exciting, but you have me convinced. Introspection and action? With food? Yes please!

    Oh, and this book has despair? Awesome. I mean, the joy is nice, too, but I like the sound of despair right now.

    Great review, Sophie! And I see that you changed your profile picture (without permission!) to a fictional Sophie. It makes me wonder if you enjoy wearing hats. And if you like Howl's Moving Castle…

    • Imagine if they tried to write out Bread and Butter with bread and butter! That wouldn’t be as appealing, haha. But beans and soup sound SO GOOD right now.

      I think this is my first restaurant book too! I’m used to watching restaurant shows on TV, so I kind of understand the chaos behind the nice warm atmosphere of dining at a restaurant, but I really enjoyed how the textual experience is slightly different from the visual experience.

      Are you looking forward to making others despair or feeling despair yourself? This book can probably go both ways. 😛

      And yes, I did! Sorry I didn’t ask for permission, haha. Thought it’d be nice to put a face to a name. 😀 I do enjoy wearing hats and watching Studio Ghibli films though, as well as growing older faster than I should.

      • But still! And one can still do some amazing things if they have a clever mind. Although, I guess that noodles are made of dough, like bread, and they could have butter in them… So the cover is still legit anyways?

        I watch cooking shows like Iron Chef, where it’s a competition, so I don’t really know the chaos behind the scenes. Unless you count Kitchen Nightmare, but I’d say that Kitchen Nightmare doesn’t show the usual restaurant, only the ones that have been dropped into an abyss of ick and grossness that are desperately trying to crawl out with the use of a reality show host.

        Both! I get easily attached to characters, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like putting them through all sorts of despair– which makes me feel despair, too. I’m not sure if that makes me have sadistic tendencies or masochistic tendencies…

        It’s okay. Howl’s Sophie is a rather awesome lady. I wonder if my profile picture would be considered a face? I mean, there’s a girl on it and everything, but she’s hiding in a paper bag. I’ve been thinking of changing it to something more colorful, but I’ve grown to really like the scaredy-cat girl that represents me 😛 IDENTITY CRISIS!

        • I love your roundabout logic, lol. I watched Chopped, Restaurant: Impossible, The Next Food Network Star, and am basically in love with every show on Food Network, and I like it when chefs get stressed out. Yay for chaos and despair! Obviously I share your sadistic tendencies.

          Your profile pic actually reminded me of The Paper Bag Princess when I first saw it, so I think it’s really cute! Maybe you can add flowers in the background to make it more colorful?

          • Chefs– getting majorly stressed out on TV, probably shedding years from their life, all for our entertainment. I think most readers are a little sadistic, haha. We bask in the misery of the characters and find it fun to talk about how sad they are.

            Oh my gosh, I remember that picture book! My teacher read it in, like, fourth grade or somewhere around there 😛 I’ll try to figure something out, haha. I’m not the best when it comes to photoshopping or editing images. Maybe there is an evasive color version of Paper Bag Girl somewhere on the Internet?

            Perhaps the color version isn’t on the surface… It might be somewhere in the Deep Web, where hackers and other suspicious people roam. Fun fact: Among the black market and other dark Deep Web things, there’s a book club. I read an article about it.

            • WHAT, where is this Deep Web book club? What kind of books does one read at that kind of book club? I imagine horror, conspiracies, and books with grotesque covers.

              And I’m sure there’s a color version somewhere! If not, I think something like PicMonkey is much easier to use than Photoshop? I’m not a photo-editing expert either, so I go with whatever’s easier to use, haha.

              When you said Paper Bag Girl, I started thinking about what a Paper Bag Girl Princess would look like… bags over head AND body? Paper Bag Girl Princess = Paper Bag? Idk. 😮

              • “Much of the literature sought by Deep Web crawlers is focused on outlaw topics: conspiracy theories, computer hacking.” So about 1/3 of your imagination is right. No the kind of book lovers I want to associate with, but book lovers, nevertheless.

                Well, what comes to my mind is a girl wearing a small paper bag for her head, and one fancy one (with cute scribblings all over it!) for her body. Or we could just say that she is a paper bag with a face.

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