Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Strangers at the Feast

Publisher's Summary. 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.

In her gripping new book, Jennifer Vanderbes masterfully lays bare the fraught lives of this complex cast of characters and the lengths to which they will go to protect their families. Strangers at the Feast is at once a heartbreaking portrait of a family struggling to find happiness and an exploration of the hidden costs of the American dream.

Published to international acclaim, Jennifer Vanderbes's first book, Easter Island, was hailed as "one of those rare novels that appeals equally to heart, mind, and soul," by the San Francisco Chronicle. In her second novel, this powerful writer reaches new heights of storytelling. This page-turner wrestles with the most important issues of our time—race, class, and above all else, family. Strangers at the Feast will leave readers haunted and deeply affected.

Have you ever read a review and knew that you must read the book NOW? Recently, this very thing happened to me after reading Bermudaonion’s review of Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes. Boy am I glad I did!

The novel begins on Thanksgiving Day 2007 with the extended Olson family gathering together to celebrate the day. Ginny Olson, a thirty something single professor and daughter of Gavin, an aging Vietnam Vet and Eleanor a suburban housewife, is the host of the dinner. Ginny has never cooked a big meal before, but wants to celebrate her new home and newly adopted mute, seven year old Indian daughter. Rounding out the guest list are Ginny’s brother Doug along with his wife Denise and their three children. Doug is a real estate mogul who is on the brink of bankruptcy due to the real estate bubble burst. On a parallel storyline track are Kijo and Spider, troubled urban teens with a grudge against one Olson family member. By the novel’s end all plotlines have converged in an astonishing and unexpected way.

Strangers at the Feast is a hard to characterize novel – part thriller/suspense, part domestic drama, part socio-political commentary and part satire. Vanderbes, a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, does it all! For instance, when writing about Ginny’s academia article, “The Emasculation of the American Warrior,” Vanderbes weaves an actual article (or at least several pages of it) into the story. Still at other points she includes a thoughtful legal analysis of “eminent domain” and a play by play account of the Green Bay Packers 2007 Thanksgiving Day game.

Strangers at the Feast is an exquisite and riveting story of family dysfunction ripped from recent headlines.

Advance review copy provided courtesy of the publisher.


  1. Sounds like a good read - and would probably be a good movie!

  2. This one sounds really good. I need to get a copy of it.

  3. Wow that is a lot of part something, a real mix of genres :)

  4. I LIVED this one as well. It certainly was the kind of story that had me turning the pages.

  5. I've heard nothing but good things about this book. I'll have to check it out.

  6. I have read so many wonderful reviews of this one. I'm excited to track a copy down to read it.

  7. I had not heard of this one, but by the sound of the reviews it sounds good. Intriguing too. And I like when I read a review on another blog and want to get the book and read it too, just like you did with this one.

  8. I'm so glad you loved this as much as I did. I thought the author did a wonderful job of building the suspense and I was shocked when I read what happened.