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'The Restaurant Critic's Wife': A novel from Mrs. LaBan

Does that name ring a bell?

"Write what you know," they say.

And so Elizabeth LaBan is a few weeks from the release of a novel titled The Restaurant Critic's Wife (Lake Union Publishing, Jan. 6).

That name ring a bell? She is the author-wife of Inquirer restaurant critic Craig LaBan, and her tale follows a young woman adjusting to motherhood, life in a new city, and living with the fact-crazed, anonymity-obsessed restaurant critic for the Philadelphia Record.

It's really fiction, insists LaBan, whose protagonist, Lila, meets government reporter-turned-restaurant writer Sam Soto in New Orleans. They move to Philadelphia - a path that the LaBans took in 1998.

"I've been working on this for years," LaBan says, adding that she found her agent by showing a draft of the novel. "The kids were young. They're teenagers now." Friends, including author Jennifer Weiner, helped polish the story.

Lila, who had avoided marriage and motherhood, is nothing like Elizabeth.

"After living through some moments in restaurants, I'd say, 'This is crazy enough to be a book,'" LaBan says. "How could I make it even more interesting?" In one scene, Soto - told by the chef that the tomatoes in a dish are fresh - roots through the restaurant's garbage (with gusto) and finds empty cans.

Never really happened, Elizabeth LaBan insists. And, she adds, Craig is not as obsessive or controlling as Sam, who forbids her to even divulge his line of work to anyone.

When she slips, it gets ugly.

LaBan, now working on two other books (one in her usual young-adult category), has a few author events scheduled so far.

For the launch, she will sit for a Q&A with Weiner at the Free Library of Philadelphia on Logan Square at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday Jan. 12.

LaBan will appear at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14 at the Upper Dublin Public Library (805 Loch Alsh Ave., Fort Washington).

She also will be on site at The Lodge at Woodloch in the Poconos for appearances from Feb. 18 to 20.