Wednesday, August 10, 2011

'Strangers at the Feast'

If you're like me, the last thing you want to read is a novel about the mortgage/building crisis.  One more hank of hair torn from your head, a few more tears shed. 

But 'Strangers at the Feast', written by Jennifer Vanderbes, demanded my attention.

It is not a diatribe against the greed of banks and Wall Street.  No, no.  It is much more than that. It exposes secrets and lies, privilege and poverty.  

The story takes place during Thanksgiving of 2007, when the U.S. was at the brink of recession.  Meet the Olson family:  Father, Gavin, a Vietnam war vet hiding behind a wall of silence.  Mother, Eleanor, a person who, although raised in the '60's, reminded me of a woman with the mindset of a 1950's housewife.  And there is their daughter, Ginny, a brilliant academic and the single mother of an adopted East Indian girl.  Here is Douglas, an ambitious real estate developer with a selfish agenda.  His wife, Denise, is stern and somewhat unyielding, loving the good life, yet wary, nonetheless.

They all have secrets which are exposed when they confront Spider and Kijo, two black boys who live in a housing project.  That tragic meeting will change all of their lives.

As Justin Cronin wrote, "Gorgeously written and uncompromising in its vision, Strangers at the Feast is more than a great novel.  It's an important one."

I heartily agree.

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