Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. Some time ago I set out to write a monthly post pairing a book with a beer, under the theory that there is a perfect beer to compliment every book. Then I got a bit overwhelmed by all the options (so many amazing books, so little time) and the series fizzled. This month, I’m bringing it back infused with a bit more structure and all the same awesome-ness. On the last Thursday of every month I’ll pair a women’s fiction novel with the perfect pint to sip while reading it. Here goes …
Last week my debut novel was released in paperback for the first time. Holding that first story in my hands as brought on all sorts of nostalgia, so I’m going back in time a bit for this first pairing. The book that started it all for me, the one I related to in such a way that I had that very first nagging thought that perhaps I too could write something was Megan Crane’s, English as a Second Language.
The book tells the story of Alex Brennan who moves to England for graduate school. She makes this move in part because, at 26-years-old, she feels stuck in a dead-end job and in larger part because her insufferable ex-boyfriend mentions that he doesn’t believe she can do it. The story chronicles her adventures navigating a competitive graduate program and life as an ex-pat. There is a huge cast of characters, and Crane gives each of them a distinct enough voice that you never lose track of who’s who. You also desperately find yourself wanting to share a pint with the majority of them.
What I love most about the story is the fact that the main character is flawed. Sometimes she drinks too much. Sometimes she makes poor choices. She is feisty and opinionated and full of self-doubt. I think this was ultimately why the book had the profound effect on me it did. I was about the age of the main character when I first read it, and enjoyed reading about a heroine that was strong but not always polished and perfect. I loved being in her head and realizing that I wasn’t the only one who had contradicting thoughts, felt stuck and regretted some things.
I’m paring this book with a classic, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Just as English as a Second Language was my entry point into the world of lighthearted women’s fiction, Sierra Nevada began my obsession with craft beer. I spent the summer after I graduated from college in Monterey, California. I would sip pints of Sierra Nevada at a bar near the camp where I worked on my nights off. When the summer was over I went in search of the same full-flavored beer and so began a long love affair. The beer is delicious and bitter in the best ways– just like Alex Brennan.
I’d love to hear about what you’re reading and/or drinking in the comments below. Cheers!