There comes a point in every person’s life when they wonder if this is as good as it gets. This is reality even for those fortunate enough to have carved out a successful path for their future, but for people like thirty-year old Sage, this is their reality every single day. Tara Botel Doherty’s new novel, Bread for the Table, unfolds an endearing story—a common reality for many—on what seems like a life headed nowhere and Sage’s gossipy coworkers at her dead end waitress job are relentless in reminding her. She had aspired to become a jewelry designer but those dreams had been cast aside five years earlier by her patronizing and abusive boyfriend and now at the age of thirty, maybe her coworkers are right. Out of nowhere, she receives a postcard from her estranged mother who twenty-five years earlier had left her standing in the kitchen stirring a pot of soup to run to the store for bread.

“You’re not a lifer, Sage. You’re not one of them. And they know that.”

Told in a myriad of flashbacks, Sage’s story intricately pieces together her fractured childhood to her current situation. The breadth of the novel can delicately be summed up in one particular quote:

“No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is to suppose that they are like himself.”

The author of this quote, John Steinbeck, was the only writer that Sage’s father would read and in those books was his preferred place to be, resulting in a trickle effect that left Sage a broken woman.

Doherty’s writing is breathlessly captivating, molding fictional characters with real-world scenarios leaving reader’s feeling Bread for the Table is their own personal unwritten memoir as they share in Sage’s defining personal experiences of bullying coworkers, abusive loved ones and trying to find oneself. Albeit based on serious social issues, the writing is more reminiscent, focusing on taking back personal control of one’s life rather than delving deep into the actual abyss of trauma, which ultimately leads to giving up personal control. In doing so, Doherty has flawlessly achieved a meaningfully lighter, yet still poignant, story that will appeal to an even broader audience.