The Kitchen Man

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Gabriel Rose, a would-be dramatist who craves success in the theater, is trapped in a comfortable, but unfulfilling, job as a waiter at Les Neiges d’Antan, one of Boston’s finest restaurants. He is also trapped in a lackluster affair with Deirdre, his lover of five years, a medical student whose interest in him is clearly waning. One night, Cynthia Kagan, a world-famous playwright and director whose work Gabe has long admired, dines at the restaurant and leaves her telephone number with the smitten Gabe. From that point on, Gabe’s predictable and stale life is never again the same.

Ira Wood’s first novel tells the story of an often-rocky love affair with an uncommon amount of intelligence and candor. Irresistibly drawn both to Cynthia’s professional stature and to her physical appeal, Gabe dives headlong into the relationship. After bungling their first lovemaking session, he impulsively follows Cynthia to Denmark in an effort to win her back. This madcap romantic interlude is abruptly ended, however, when the couple return to their old lives in Boston. Cynthia is some ten years Gabe’s senior, and her complicated life is full of professional and personal responsibilities. Though determined to make a success of their relationship, Gabe nevertheless has trouble coping with Cynthia’s family, with her absolute dedication to her work, and with her daunting reputation and achievements.

Gabriel Rose is a fascinating character, a slightly overweight sensualist whose impatience with society’s emphasis on youth and slimness lends a droll satirical note to the novel. He is also the only child of an unhappy marriage, and his whole life has been a quest for unconditional love. Gabe, a feminist man unthreatened by the success of the woman he loves, deserves the unequivocally happy ending that this novel provides.