Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Review and Giveaway: Table for Seven

By Jami Deise

**Giveaway is now closed**

Table for Seven, prolific author Whitney Gaskell’s latest offering, is the second book I’ve read recently that was structured around an ongoing event hosted by a revolving group of friends. The first, The Forced Redundancy Film Club (by Brian Finnegan), was about a group of fired co-workers meeting regularly for a movie night; Gaskell’s novel is about a friends’ dinner club. I hope this structure is not the start of a new trend. In both books, the most interesting plot points happened away from the events, and the meetings themselves seemed forced and anticlimactic.

The non-dinner party scenes in Gaskell’s novel, however, were quite engaging. The book is about two unhappily married couples – Will and Fran, and Mark and Jaime – and their unattached friends Coop, Audrey and Leland. Audrey was widowed several years ago, and objects to her best friend Fran’s attempts at setting her up. So when she meets Coop on New Year’s Eve, Fran lies to her that Coop is gay. Of course, Fran has her own reasons for lying – she’s developed an almost-obsessive crush on Coop, who is also Will’s best friend. Meanwhile, perfectionist Jaime suspects her husband Mark is having an affair – but maybe he’s just too involved with his daughter Emily’s budding tennis career.

Gaskell writes from the third person limited omniscient point of view, while limiting POV to one person during each scene. This perspective allows readers to see characters' differing interpretations for the same interaction. For instance, while Fran thinks Coop is interested and responsive to a come-on, the next scene shows him shaken and dismayed. Gaskell is also quite adept at using a character’s actions, rather than narrative, to describe him or her. When we first meet Jaime, for instance, she is putting away groceries in such a specific way that we do not need the author to tell us she’s a perfectionist who is close to being anal.

The book is domestic drama bordering on soap opera, but it’s engrossing and never bleeds into melodrama. I found the stories of the two married couples to be realistic and compelling, although frankly Mark never appears as anything more than a self-absorbed jerk. The single characters, perhaps because their stories seemed less compelling, don’t come across quite so empathetically. While I knew I was supposed to be rooting for Audrey and Coop to get together, I found her self-centered and judgmental and him undependable and shallow. Leland, a widower, is a “magical elder” character and never breaks out of that role.

Nevertheless, the story moves along briskly, the characters seem real and the ending satisfying. And the description of the food is mouth-watering.

Thanks to Bantam Dell (Random House) for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have SEVEN copies to give away to some lucky US readers!

How to win:
Please tell us about the last time you hosted people for a meal. (Could be anything from who you had over to what you cooked to something interesting or exciting that may have happened.)

One entry per person.

Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win. Entries without contact information will NOT be counted.

US only. Giveaway ends May 7th at midnight EST.



30 comments:

Sharn3960 said...

Hmmm, I guess it was a birthday party for son who was turning 6. Nothing real exciting happened, it was just a typical child's bday party, sorry, no fun stories.

But I LOVE Whitney Gaskell, I've read every one of her books! I'll read this one too.

sharn3960 AT comcast DOT net

Marlene Engel said...

I hosted people for a meal on New Year's Day. We always have a huge feast for all of our family.

mengel2@nycap.rr.com

Anonymous said...

I guess the last meal I hosted was a luncheon for some co-workers over the holidays where I made a taco bar. :) Love WHitney and all her books! She's awesome!

SuzyQ4PR at aol dot com

Stephanie said...

The last meal I hosted was for Christmas.

Skk25@aol.com

Bridget O'Neill said...

The last meal I hosted was after my daughter's 4th birthday party. It was after the kids left, but my mom, stepdad, and a good friend stayed later. We made pizzas (yes, made, not frozen or delivered :)). Although, to be fair, it was my mom who made them, but I made the cupcakes and cookies from scratch that we had that day and after dinner. I guess she thought I needed a break from the kitchen, which was fine by me!!

bjoneill@hotmail.com

rachel h said...

The last time I hosted a meal was for my parents who traveled all the way from south Carolina for a visit (i live in texas). We had my homemade MAC and cheese, stir fried veggies, and my husband grilled jalopeno hamburgers.
I would love love love to win a copy of this book! I havent read anything by this author yet, but i want to start!

rachhyatt@gmail.com

Nova said...

The last meal I hosted was our Spaghetti night. We had a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, garlic knots, salad, and peanut butter bliss cupcakes for dessert. We had a lot of fun!
sparkle40175(at)hotmail(dot)com

Sara said...

My friends and I have a monthly "breakfast club" meeting- we get together with our toddlers and have delicious breakfast foods, and let the kids play while we get a much needed break and mom time! I just hosted a couple of weeks ago.

coversaralea@yahoo.com

Linda Kish said...

The last time was last summer when we had family over for a pool party and dinner after. Our dogs really don't like it when we have company.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

Bonnie K. said...

The last big meal I hosted was on Christmas Eve. My husband's mother was staying with us, visiting from Virginia, and I had over his family that were able to come. I had three different kind of soups--split pea with ham, clam chowder, and red lentils. His brother baked sandwich rolls from scratch and I put out assorted cheese and meats. His brother also made the famous German purple cabbage with bacon. Everything was delicious. The downside was that our refrigerator decided to die that night---so I ended up throwing out much of the leftovers. :( The upside, I got a new refrigerator. The old one was acting up for many years.

bluedawn95864 at gmail dot com

Ingeborg said...

The last meal I hosted was for Christmas. My son, daughter and their families came and we had a wonderful time. The dinner was delicious and everyone loved it.

Kit3247(at)aol(dot)com

Rhonda said...

Last time my brother and sister in law came to visit I had a dinner party for them with friends from here.I cooked a delicious dinner &we laughed late into the night.Great memory.blog follower lomazowr@gmail.com Twitter follower@rhondareads.

Anonymous said...

Last time we hosted people for a meal was on Good Friday. We do it every year!

melinda.garza15@yahoo.com

karenk said...

I hosted a get together during a basketball game.

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Mrs Mommy Booknerd said...

I had my best college girlfriends here and we drank wine, ate great food and laughed all weekend, love hosting!

Mrsmommybooknerdsbookreviews at gmail dot com

Susan @ The Book Bag said...

We had the whole family together for Easter and I fixed my mother's lasagna recipe. It's not your typical Easter meal but everyone loves it!

suzebomb(at)gmail.com

Chrissy TheEveryFreeChanceReader said...

The last time we hosted people for a meal was either my son's 2nd birthday party or my daughter's baptism. (They occurred around the same time and I can't remember which was the most recent! Oh, the diminishing memory of a mom!)

For my son's birthday party, I made shredded roast beef for sandwiches. YUM! We also had a pretzel tray from Philly Pretzel Factory. They have the best pretzels ever! Seriously.

For my daughter's baptism, we order mini sub sandwiches from DiBella's and we had pretzels from Philly Pretzel Factory. Both are so delicious!

We will be having our 8th annual Memorial Day picnic in a few weeks. YAY! I can't wait for that. The same people will be invited as for the other two events - parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces/nephews. We will make salsa, brats, burgers, and probably have pretzels!!

everyfreechance@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

I can't remember the last time we hosted, but we are hosting a meal tonight with our "across the way" neighbors. On the menu: salmon, asparagus, couscous- keeping it easy now that we are having grilling weather! Tis the season for simple, healthy food.

keri@ticktockllc.com

Jessica said...

I last had people over for my mom's birthday. I cooked dinner and dessert. It was a lot of fun!

Thanks!
-Jessica M
walkingcorpse11@hotmail.com

Brent Taylor said...

I last had a few friends over for a chocolate pudding cake that I made. They hated it, to my dismay, but it was a fun afternoon nonetheless.

Email: brenttaylor2448@gmail.com

Tiffany Drew said...

Oh wow, I think the last time we hosted a meal was Christmas in 2009! It's been such a long time.

jaidahsmommy(at)comcast(dot)net

Kim Pinch said...

I hosted a meal for my daughters graduation. We had BBQ beef, hamburgers and chicken with lots of salads and finger foods. It was fun.

bn100 said...

During Thanksgiving

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

JJT said...

We hosted about 20 family members for a celebration of a number of birthdays for Sunday brunch. Everyone had a great time. jtretin@aol.com

pascale said...

I hosted a brunch yesterday to celebrate my daughter's confirmation. I was cursing my husband for expecting me to cook instead of going out..... UNTIL we all relaxed at our house with champagne, good food (that I cooked)great friends and family and happy, relaxed and engaged kids (ranging from 6-15!). What a great time we had, mostly because we did it at home.

This book sounds good, though you did give a tough review. I would love to read it.
pascale.poitras@verizon.net

Hailey Fish said...

I helped my mom make corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day in March.

fishiegirl22@yahoo.com

Jeryl M. said...

We had our best friends over for dinner just last week.

jeryl.marcus@gmail.com

JROSEN60 said...

For my bookclub!

jrosen60@gmail.com

Maureen said...

We had my whole family over for Easter dinner.
mce1011 AT aol DOT com

Tobi said...

I have no luck actually. My parents come over. My dad LOVES my meatloaf and mac & cheese. That and birthday parties for the kiddos. Usually I do something easy like pizza though. LOL
tobihelton at gmail dot com