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Review: Strangers at the Feast

Strangers at the Feast Book Cover 

Strangers at the Feast
By Jennifer Vanderbes
Simon & Schuster
August 2010
352pp 

*No Spoilers* 

The Short of It: 

Just like a runaway train, Strangers at the Feast picks up speed and hurls you toward its dramatic conclusion. You won’t be able to put this one down. 

The Rest of It: 

It’s Thanksgiving day. Ginny, has invited her parents, her brother, his wife and their three kids to enjoy dinner in her new home. Ginny, single and an academic sort at that, is not well-versed in the kitchen, but is excited about hosting such an important meal. The others are excited about the prospect of seeing her new home, but they have their doubts over how successful the dinner will be. 

While waiting for dinner, each character has time to reflect on the past.  The story is told through alternating points of view, whereas each chapter is dedicated to a character in the story. As the story progresses, it’s clear that the meal is anything but traditional and that there are larger issues to consider. 

The mere mention of Thanksgiving brings many images to mind. The glistening bird, the mounds of mashed potatoes, the gravy boats and…the drama. You know what I am talking about. Where Aunt Jolene drank a little bit too much wine and ended up out by the trash cans, or how that bird may have looked perfectly roasted on the outside, but really wasn’t.  It happens. As much as I love Thanksgiving, there is also a little piece of me that dreads it as well. Vanderbes has written a novel that somehow encapsulates that exact feeling of dread. Family dynamics, intimate secrets, it’s all here. 

As the tension mounts, you know something is going to happen, but what? Well, I won’t share anything else because I want you to read it for yourself but Vanderbes does not disappoint. The writing is tight, the pace is gripping, and the characters are worth remembering. I was very excited to receive this book and once I cracked it open, I could not put it down.

What I especially admire is that this isn’t JUST a page-turner, this is a book with a message. If you’re a fan of well-constructed stories, ones that unfold like a three-act play, are page-turners and include well-developed, conflicted characters, then there is no doubt in my mind that you will enjoy Strangers at the Feast.

I’m adding this one to my list of faves for 2010.

Source: This review copy was sent to me by the publisher.

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Book Shout-Out: Strangers at the Feast

Strangers at the Feast Book Cover

Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes
Simon & Schuster
August 2010

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

On Thanksgiving Day 2007, as the country teeters on the brink of a recession, three generations of the Olson family gather. Eleanor and Gavin worry about their daughter, a single academic, and her newly adopted Indian child, and about their son, who has been caught in the imploding real-estate bubble. While the Olsons navigate the tensions and secrets that mark their relationships, seventeen-year-old Kijo Jackson and his best friend Spider set out from the nearby housing projects on a mysterious job. A series of tragic events bring these two worlds ever closer, exposing the dangerously thin line between suburban privilege and urban poverty, and culminating in a crime that will change everyone’s life.

I am so excited about this book! There is nothing greater than being excited over a  book and then getting the said book in the mail. It’s the best feeling ever! I have to tell you though, when I received this one, I thought for one heart-stopping second that the cover was actually torn, FOR REAL. You see how the cover is torn? Well that tear looks so real that I ran my hand over it numerous times to confirm that it wasn’t.

Anyway, I love the idea of following a family on a specific day. What makes it more intriguing is that the day happens to be Thanksgiving. I don’t know about you but I’ve experienced my fair share of family drama on Thanksgiving. I mean, who hasn’t?

I am also in full FALL mode. My kids are in school and summer is pretty much over for me. I’m ready for Pumpkin Soy Lattes and warm, cushy sweaters. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this book.

What about you? Besides the long-awaited Mockingjay, what are you excited about?