From Publishers Weekly
The son of New Yorker
writer Brendan Gill grew up meeting the likes of Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway. A Yale education led to a job at prestigious J. Walter Thompson Advertising. But at 63, the younger Gill's sweet life has gone sour. Long fired from JWT, his own business is collapsing and an ill-advised affair has resulted in a new son and a divorce. At this low point, and in need of health insurance for a just diagnosed brain tumor, Gill fills out an application for Starbucks and is assigned to the store on 93rd and Broadway in New York City, staffed primarily by African-Americans. Working as a barista, Gill, who is white, gets an education in race relations and the life of a working class Joe . Gill certainly has a story to tell, but his narrative is flooded with saccharine flashbacks, when it could have detailed how his very different, much younger colleagues, especially his endearing 28-year-old manager, Crystal Thompson, came to accept him. The book reads too much like an employee handbook, as Gill details his duties or explains how the company chooses its coffee. Gill's devotion to the superchain has obviously changed his life for the better, but that same devotion makes for a repetitive, unsatisfying read. Photos not seen by PW
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*Starred Review* Yale graduate, prosperous ad exec: Gill has it all. Then he turns 60 and finds himself precipitously bounced from his job and saddled with the triple threats of a ruined marriage, an unexpected newborn, and a brain tumor. Despairing at the prospect of looming poverty, he stops at a Manhattan Starbucks to comfort himself with a latte. By chance he sits down next to Crystal, a young African American woman recruiting new workers for the coffee giant, and she offers him a job. Almost as an act of desperation, he accepts, and he dons the uniform of a barista-in-training at an Upper West Side Starbucks. This son of privilege who had hobnobbed with Queen Elizabeth, T. S. Eliot, and Jackie Onassis, now keeps daily company with a diverse crew of brash young New Yorkers for whom Starbucks' progressive employee benefits and demanding, inspiring standards of public service offer hope. Gill starts at the bottom, cleaning the bathroom, and he has trouble mastering the cash register. Over the months he learns to deeply respect Crystal, to appreciate the mutual support of his coworkers, and to genuinely cherish the passing parade of customers, each unique. To his own astonishment, he realizes that he actually looks forward joyfully to every hectic, exhausting workday. Other corporate giants can only envy the sheer goodwill that this memoir will inevitably generate for Starbucks. What a read. Knoblauch, Mark