I’ve got another extended review for you guys today! This one is for The Dinner List–a book that totally surprised me with its heart and depth. I’m excited to share it with you!
Thank you to BookishFirst and Flatiron Books for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
We’ve all heard some variance of this question before, usually at get-to-know-you types of events: If you could invite 5 people to dinner, who would they be and why? For Sabrina, those five people are: Audrey Hepburn (naturally), her best friend, a former professor, her estranged father who has passed away, and her boyfriend who she seems separated from. Her reasons for inviting these five? Complicated, and this book reveals the deeper truths to the reader slowly and over the course of their shared meal. The Dinner List is a short read that on the surface feels light and fluffy, but every new twistshows that this book actually packs a deeply emotional punch.
As the premise of this book suggests, the plot of the story is six people sitting down to share a meal. However, every other chapter shares a flashback from Sabrina’s perspective, a bit of information that reveals more and more about why these people have been invited together. Because of this setup, the plot was slow-moving at different points. The dinner conversation related to the flashbacks, but was also often about the meal itself. When talking about the flashbacks, I find it necessary to say that I was unprepared based on the synopsis for this story to be a romance. I did not expect so much attention to be focused on the relationship between Sabrina and Tobias, and I found myself dreading what lay ahead. I’m glad I didn’t put the book down, though; while the story begins with a feel toward Daniel Handler’s Why We Broke Up, the twist midway through catches one offguard and carries the second half of the story at a much quicker rate. For a short book, it feels long, but the ending is worth the wait for those who make it there.
In terms of characters, this story is trying to juggle a lot. Six main stars is a handful, and the introductions near the beginning were hard to follow (I kept forgetting names and who was who). However, each character ended up with their own unique personality, and with this I was impressed. I felt that “five” was a bit much, as a couple of the characters seemed more irrelevant to our plot than others. In the end, though, I liked the dynamic that was shared around the table. And, in particular, I enjoyed the relationship between Sabrina and Jessica. I was able to relate to the ways life and distance can put strain on what was once an easy and beautiful relationship. And when an author puts a platonic relationship in the spotlight, I always appreciate it!
The writing in this book is good, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it remarkable in any way. The voices are mostly unique and we have a lovely narrative voice in Sabrina. I particularly noticed how well her introspection is vocalized–something often easier said than done. However, it was more the interest in the plot twist than the writing itself that kept me turning pages.
While the individual components of the book don’t seem that wonderful, somehow putting them together made it work. I loved that this cozy read became a beautiful exploration of grief and healing, these two topics being addressed in ways one may not expect. It is still a romance, but I found the relationship to be very authentic. The ending is bittersweet and leaves readers with something to contemplate. And while I started off thinking I’d be giving this book 2 or 3 stars, it fell easily to a 4 right about the time I started crying.
I really liked this book a lot. I would recommend it to Nicholas Sparks fans, as well as anyone who wants a not-so-light romance in their life. Do not mistake this heartfelt tale for simple fluff.