Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White

A Place at the Table is an amazing book that gives you a peek into the lives of 3 very different people, Alice, Bobby and Amelia.   

Celebrating the healing power of food and the magic of New York City, A Place at the Table follows the lives of three seekers who come together in the understanding that when you embrace the thing that makes you different, you become whole. A Place at the Table tells the story of three unforgettable characters whose paths converge in a storied Manhattan café: Bobby, a young gay man from Georgia who has been ostracized by his family; Amelia, a wealthy Connecticut woman whose life is upended when a family secret comes to light; and Alice, an African-American chef from North Carolina whose heritage is the basis of a renowned cookbook but whose past is a mystery to those who know her. These characters are exiles—from homeland, from marriage, from family. While they all find companionship and careers through cooking, they hunger for the deeper nourishment of communion. As the narrative sweeps from a freed-slave settlement in 1920s North Carolina to Manhattan during the deadly AIDS epidemic of the 1980s to the well-heeled hamlet of contemporary Old Greenwich, Connecticut, Bobby, Amelia, and Alice are asked to sacrifice everything they ever knew or cared about to find authenticity and fulfillment. 

A Place at the Table had me at page one of the Prologue.  I wanted to know more about Alice and James and Emancipation Township, North Carolina in the 1920’s.  I kept reading to find out how Bobby would get out of Georgia and move to New York to find out how to be the person he always knew he could be; and I wanted to know how Amelia would learn the secrets of her family.  I didn’t want to put this book down even when I was sobbing over Sebastian’s death and Bobby’s reaction to it.  This book actually took me back to my own experiences with the death of a friend to AIDS.   
The storyline is a bit jumpy at times.  You go from 1929 North Carolina to 1970’s Georgia and the characters are totally different.  But as the book progresses you understand why Susan Rebecca White did this.  By the end of the book you understand why these characters reacted to different situations and how their lives have changed for the better. But there were times when I was frustrated because I wanted my questions answered NOW! 

I loved these characters.  They reminded me of people I have known throughout my life and that have touched me in different ways.  I actually felt a bit disappointed when the book ended because I knew I wouldn’t be able to be with these new friends every day.  I wouldn’t smell the food that they were making, or hear their stories at the café.   

All of the characters in this book are flawed but in a way that makes them more realistic.  Though they are flawed they grow and find out who they are; and through the secrets that are told you know why a person did something and how their reactions to the situation made them grow. 
You also realize that even though a loved one dies you aren’t always alone.  You eventually move on and meet new people who help you find love again. 

I would definitely recommend this book!!! I would also recommend having a box of Kleenex next you to you during certain parts of the book.  You might cry, but it is not a sad one.  The characters become friends and loved ones and you will want to go back and visit them time and again. 
Susan Rebecca White’s first two novels were hailed for the beauty of her writing, her wit, her compassion for her characters, and her sharp insights into their inner lives. A Place at the Table announces the maturity of her talents and reveals her wise and open heart. 

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Stephanie

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The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

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