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Novel about harried waitress may make you a bigger tipper

MALCOLM RITTER
AP Science Writer

“Turning Tables,” (Dial Press, 324 pages, $24), by Heather and Rose MacDowell: This novel will give you a new appreciation for what waiters and waitresses at fancy restaurants go through. And even if you don’t eat at fancy restaurants, you’ll be rewarded with a delightful story.

“Turning Tables” is written by identical twins who drew on their own experience as waitresses at restaurants in New York City, Nantucket, Mass., and San Francisco. They’ve distilled those memories into the story of Erin Edwards, 28, who loses her corporate job in a downsizing. Desperate for cash, she takes a waitressing job at a chic Manhattan restaurant. Disasters ensue.

She has zero experience, and it shows in this high-pressure environment, ruled by her demanding and sharp sharp-tongued bosses. Early on, she’s flummoxed by the finer points of folding napkins at high speed, and sent sprawling in front of the temperamental head chef because her shoes weren’t designed for greasy spots.

Then there’s tackling the psychological challenge of reading and pleasing the high-roller clientele. “You have to be part of their fantasy,” her sympathetic mentor explains. “It’s all about controlling the guest’s experience, and that means adapting to every table. When I’m talking to guests, I’m not me any more. I’m … whoever they want me to be.”

Frankly, she’s told, none of her peers on the staff expected her to last more than a week. But she’s determined not to give in. She plunges on through traumas such as dealing with a shrieking child in the hushed dining room and waiting on a powerful restaurant critic. Throw in romances with a cook and a well-to-do customer ” who furnishes a humiliating reminder of a waitresses’ social standing among his peers ” and there’s more than enough to keep this story humming.

And it does. Surely there’s a movie in such a feel-good tale with outsized personalities, high-pressure action and an attractive young heroine. Until somebody makes it, the book will surely satisfy your appetite for a good tale.