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.
An unhappy family creeps toward a violent tragedy in Vanderbes's misfired sophomore novel (after Easter Island). Every one of the Olsons who gather on Thanksgiving Day, 2007, has issues. Matriarch Eleanor, adrift after years of ministering to a husband who never recovered from his Vietnam war experience, is flummoxed by her children's choices: her unmarried college professor daughter, Ginny, has just adopted a mute Indian girl, and son Douglas is up to his neck in the real estate bubble, prompting the ire of his wife, Denise, who can barely stand the ineptitude of Ginny's attempt at cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Then there's Kijo, who is out for revenge after one of Douglas's real estate deals gets his grandmother's home condemned. When Ginny's oven fails and the Olsen family decamps to Denise and Douglas's McMansion, the catastrophe that ensues will, of course, change and bind the lives of everyone involved. But without the love story, historical intrigue, and exotic locale of Easter Island, Vanderbes spins her wheels on a toothless Corrections-lite family saga that winds its way to an ever-so-unlikely big bang conclusion.
changes everything for the family, town, culture and characters. Satire with seamless flashbacks and scene shifts, great characters, lively dialogue and the right pacing for suspense, sympathy and a message about humanity that good literature does so well. I had nothing to do with it - excellent Jennifer!