A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White
Published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Review copy provided by the publicist
Bobby, Amelia, and Alice don’t have very much in common at first glance: Bobby, a gay man from Georgia, has been shunned by his family and so has moved to New York City to start a new life, Amelia is a well-to-do woman from Connecticut whose happy face hides the secrets of her abusive marriage, and Alice is an African-American chef whose recipes founded a famed New York City restaurant. However, they are connected in surprising ways, and as they get to know one another, each of their lives will be forever changed.
My summary above barely skims the surface of what A Place at the Table is about, and it definitely doesn’t do justice to this beautiful novel. Guys, I loved this book! It is such a heartfelt, gorgeous, true novel and I can’t come up with the right words to tell you why. Let me at least try.
The main reason I loved this book so much is that Bobby is one of the best characters I’ve seen in fiction in a while. He is such a genuine person, so desperate to be loved for who he is, and so loving and forgiving of his family even when they cast him aside and refuse to accept his sexuality. I loved reading about his journey to find himself in New York, his adventures in becoming a chef, and his first experience with finding true love. He was such a joy to read about and truly, my emotions as I was reading his story mirrored his. He was happy, I celebrated with him, he grieved, I sobbed with him. It is such a lovely thing for a character in a novel to get this close to the reader, to submerge themselves in the reader’s brain, and this totally happened to me with Bobby. I loved every minute I spent with him.
Another thing that was so wonderful about A Place at the Table is how so much of the book centers around cooking and celebrating with food. I love food, and I love to cook, and foodie books are great because of those two facts. This isn’t exactly a foodie book, but it does have those elements within its pages – drool-worthy descriptions of what the characters are cooking, much of the book take place at a restaurant, and two of the main characters are chefs. The book would have been great without these elements, but having the foodie stuff in the novel took it to that next level for me.
The novel takes place mostly in the ’80’s and a lot of attention is paid to the AIDS crisis of that time. White handled this subject with a careful touch, giving it the respect it deserves and the heaviness that is associated with the vast number of people who died of AIDS in America when it was an unknown, not understood disease, but the overall tone of the novel was not heavy at all. There is also a bit of attention paid to racism, definitely attention paid to abusive relationships, issues with religion – basically, lots of stuff happening here but never does White make it an “issues” novel. Instead, it is about the characters and the ways in which these issues shape their lives – and how they rise above these challenges even when it seems all in the world is against them.
There is SO MUCH I loved about A Place at the Table that I didn’t even touch on here. Honestly, I cannot more highly recommend this novel. It is such a gorgeous piece of fiction that I think everyone can benefit from reading.