Emma's Table

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Overview

From the moment Emma Sutton walks into the FitzCoopers auction house, the disgraced media darling knows exactly what she wants: an antique dining table. What she gets is a chance to set things right.

Fresh from a yearlong stretch in prison, Emma finds her life just as she left it—filled with glittering business successes, bruising personal defeats, rolling television cameras, and awkward Sunday dinners at home. She needs a clean slate—a second chance that might be provided by ...

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Emma's Table

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Overview

From the moment Emma Sutton walks into the FitzCoopers auction house, the disgraced media darling knows exactly what she wants: an antique dining table. What she gets is a chance to set things right.

Fresh from a yearlong stretch in prison, Emma finds her life just as she left it—filled with glittering business successes, bruising personal defeats, rolling television cameras, and awkward Sunday dinners at home. She needs a clean slate—a second chance that might be provided by two unlikely saviors: Benjamin Blackman, a terminally charming social worker and Emma's part-time assistant, and one of Benjamin's most heartbreaking wards, an overweight little girl from Queens named Gracie.

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Editorial Reviews

Susan Wloszczyna
“Delicious…. [A] touchingly bittersweet comedy of modern urban existence…. Anyone who can build nail-biting suspense out of a Sunday dinner gone horribly wrong is deserving of praise.”
Holly Peterson
“Sophisticated, witty, and fun, Emma’s Table had me hooked from the first page, and smiling through the very last. Philip Galanes serves up a pitch-perfect comedy of manners with a deft and elegant touch.”
Tom Perrotta
“Emma’s Table is a charming urban fairy tale about characters who actually learn from their mistakes. Philip Galanes has written a sweet, sly comedy of manners with an oddly familiar and slightly notorious figure at its center.”
Ayelet Waldman
“Emma’s Table is a marvel: a whip-smart juggling act, as light as meringue, with a perfectly tender heart.”
Vogue
“This summer’s delicious read.”
New York Sun
“In other hands, a novel about a fictionalized Martha Stewart would be an occasion for a hatchet job. But Mr. Galanes...has created a heroine not only capable of but also deserving of kindness”
Publishers Weekly

In this solid ripped-from-the-headlines effort from Galanes (Father's Day), Emma Sutton-once an Oprah-featured interior design queen, now a newly released convicted tax felon-is determined to regain her balance, personally and professionally. Yet she soon resorts to mild fraud at an auction, proving old habits die hard. Confrontations with her ex-husband (who wants to try again) and her adult daughter (a mass of insecurities and vices) lead to guilt and shame. Meanwhile, Emma's weekend assistant, Benjamin Blackman, is not coping very well with his girlfriend or with his day job as an elementary school social worker. There a troubled, overweight third grader, Gracie Santiago, is losing ground fast, despite her mother's efforts. When Emma decides that she has brought her woes upon herself and can get rid of them the same way, the story lines collide neatly. Galanes's thoughtful, placid novel is overpopulated given the scarcity of plot, but the mother-daughter relationships hold it together. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Domestic diva, possibly patterned after actual ex-con celebrity, finds redemption through helping others. Recently released from Federal prison after doing time for income-tax evasion, Emma Sutton is almost back on her game. Again making frequent appearances on Oprah as a decorating and cuisine consultant, she scours auction houses for the latest in luxe. Spying a Nakashima table perfect for her Park Avenue Xanadu, Emma orders her weekend assistant, moonlighting PS 431 social worker Benjamin, to bid on it for her. His weekday job poses thornier challenges: Obese third-grader Gracie is being picked on by playground bullies but refuses to turn them in. Benjamin finds Gracie's svelte single mom alluring but suspects Tina may be deliberately dosing her daughter with junk food, although she insists that Gracie is on a strict diet. Meanwhile, Emma's ex-husband Bobby has returned to her as mysteriously as he walked out decades before. However, across Central Park from her digs, Bobby keeps a secret pied-a-terre in which he squirrels away furniture and paintings Emma long ago banished as unstylish. Their daughter Cassy, desultory heiress-apparent to Mom's enterprises, spends her nights clubbing and drugging, often waking up in strange menages a trois. The adult principals seem to have all been sabotaged by parents who range from hypercritical (Emma's father) to dismissive (Cassy's father). Answering Benjamin's cell phone when Tina calls to protest his allegations of child abuse, Emma decides to take Gracie's weight problem in hand as only a famous lifestyle maven can. Despite his gift for telling detail, rueful but compassionate insight and effortless imagery, Galanes's second effort Father's Day(2004) falls flat; the resolution is simply too hurried and uncomplicated. Agent: Betsy Lerner/The Gernert Company
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061554070
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/28/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

An entertainment lawyer in private practice and an award-winning interior designer, Philip Galanes is the author of the advice column Social Q's in the New York Times Sunday Styles section. He divides his time between New York City and East Hampton, New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Emma's Table

Chapter One

Saturday Morning:
Black Coffee and
a Pinch of Brown Sugar

Emma Stutton clicked and clacked all around the auction house, her sharp heels tapping just as quietly as she could manage. She was a regal brunette of sixty-odd, who'd parlayed a small career as an interior decorator into an enormous one as media darling; Emma was a household name, in fact. And she had been for fifteen years...thanks to her regular appearances on Oprah...with a sea of magazine spreads and a mountain of books, an endless stream of television segments on the best daytime shows, and a petrified forest of Emma-branded furniture, all dedicated to the stylish American home. Her allure had always been easy to see: she was just like you, only better...which was somewhat at odds with the latest feather in her cap, a conviction for tax evasion and lying under oath, complete with a stay in the federal pen.

Yes, she sighed, with a huff of breath...having spied an old woman with her jaw hanging down...the Emma Sutton, she thought, coveting the attention and feeling pestered by it both. She couldn't go anywhere without being recognized; she wouldn't have had it any other way.

Emma glared down at her shoes.

She hated making noise when she walked.

"So unladylike," her father always told her...like whistling out on the street. "Men don't marry girls who whistle, Emmy." That's what her father said, whether she was whistling or not. He'd never made any secret of his hopes for the girl: an early marriage and a life lived on somebody else's nickel.

Of course, her father was long dead by now, and sheherself the mother of a grown-up girl, and there wasn't much to be done for the tapping at FitzCoopers in any event: miles and miles of taupy concrete, all polished smooth, with swirls of darker brown and rusty red mixed in, and not a carpet in sight. Emma knew they'd spent a fortune making the floors like that, but she had no earthly idea why anyone would. It's like a two-car garage in here, she thought...her long back as straight as a mile, and those perilous heels tapping just a little louder than she would have liked.

The people at FitzCoopers had arranged the more important pieces from that morning's auction into a large circle all around the exhibition room. Treasures of French Modernism, it was called...like a racetrack made of furniture, every treasure propelling her one step closer to the finish line. The exhibit took up the lion's share of the huge loft space; a stubby little partition on wheels was all that separated the circular display from the tidy grid of gilt chairs that lay beyond it...just lying in wait for the auction to begin, a sturdy oak podium for the auctioneer up front.

Emma looked hard at every piece of furniture she passed on her circular route. She furrowed her brow before each one, focusing her eyes like the lens of a camera; then she'd blink...closing the shutter, opening it fast...as if she were obliged to memorialize each piece in turn. She would have set up little groupings of furniture, she thought...not at all sure just then, only trying the notion on for size.

Something has to give, she decided...shaking her head at the ugly loop and setting to work on a nicer composition. She pictured the curvy sofa from the corner paired up with the coffee table in front of her; then she tossed in the velvet chairs by the window. Emma nodded her head in approval, floating little arrangements like that all around the room.

From the time she was a girl, Emma had known you couldn't just expect people to see the value of a thing. No, she thought, you have to work until they see it, and keep working, even then.

She wasn't quite finished with the exhibition space either. She'd add some nice rugs too, she decided. She pictured them soft and worn, old Persians like the kind she used to find at tag sales for a song...back when she didn't have much more than a song to spend. She saw rugs like grassy green lawns over hard-packed earth, rugs like tender skin over skeletons of bone.

She was almost pleased, but tired too.

Emma never stopped working...like a scullery maid practically, even in somebody else's auction house. She was always trying to make things nice, to raise herself up in the world's esteem...only to watch people cheer at her every setback, just like her father had done a million years before.

They used wall-to-wall carpeting before me, she thought, her well-groomed head lifted high.

Emma wasn't overestimating her impact on interior design: what she said went...whether it was covering a wall in elaborately flocked paper, or assembling a crazy quilt of rugs on the floor. When Emma Sutton spoke, America listened.She tried her best not to hear the soft clickings of her shoes...the very way she'd tried shrugging off the sting of her father's low regard: without much success, it turned out.

It was only half a year since her "difficulties" had passed. That was how she thought of them: the bruising trial and the prison stretch, those humiliating months of home confinement, and a waterfall of wretched press...all for some stupid little tax return that shouldn't have made a jot of difference in the world. And even after her confinement, Emma still wasn't entitled to take back the reins of her company. That was part of her punishment too. Emma Sutton couldn't run Emma Sutton, not for the time being anyway. Her lawyers didn't think she'd be able to for five more years, at least. She just worked there now, like any other employee...assuming any other employee could make everyone in the building tremble in their boots.

Emma's Table. Copyright © by Philip Galanes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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First Chapter

Emma's Table
A Novel

Chapter One

Saturday Morning:
Black Coffee and
a Pinch of Brown Sugar

Emma Stutton clicked and clacked all around the auction house, her sharp heels tapping just as quietly as she could manage. She was a regal brunette of sixty-odd, who'd parlayed a small career as an interior decorator into an enormous one as media darling; Emma was a household name, in fact. And she had been for fifteen years—thanks to her regular appearances on Oprah—with a sea of magazine spreads and a mountain of books, an endless stream of television segments on the best daytime shows, and a petrified forest of Emma-branded furniture, all dedicated to the stylish American home. Her allure had always been easy to see: she was just like you, only better—which was somewhat at odds with the latest feather in her cap, a conviction for tax evasion and lying under oath, complete with a stay in the federal pen.

Yes, she sighed, with a huff of breath—having spied an old woman with her jaw hanging down—the Emma Sutton, she thought, coveting the attention and feeling pestered by it both. She couldn't go anywhere without being recognized; she wouldn't have had it any other way.

Emma glared down at her shoes.

She hated making noise when she walked.

"So unladylike," her father always told her—like whistling out on the street. "Men don't marry girls who whistle, Emmy." That's what her father said, whether she was whistling or not. He'd never made any secret of his hopes for the girl: an early marriage and a life lived on somebody else's nickel.

Of course, her father was long dead by now, and she herself the mother of a grown-up girl, and there wasn't much to be done for the tapping at FitzCoopers in any event: miles and miles of taupy concrete, all polished smooth, with swirls of darker brown and rusty red mixed in, and not a carpet in sight. Emma knew they'd spent a fortune making the floors like that, but she had no earthly idea why anyone would. It's like a two-car garage in here, she thought—her long back as straight as a mile, and those perilous heels tapping just a little louder than she would have liked.

The people at FitzCoopers had arranged the more important pieces from that morning's auction into a large circle all around the exhibition room. Treasures of French Modernism, it was called—like a racetrack made of furniture, every treasure propelling her one step closer to the finish line. The exhibit took up the lion's share of the huge loft space; a stubby little partition on wheels was all that separated the circular display from the tidy grid of gilt chairs that lay beyond it—just lying in wait for the auction to begin, a sturdy oak podium for the auctioneer up front.

Emma looked hard at every piece of furniture she passed on her circular route. She furrowed her brow before each one, focusing her eyes like the lens of a camera; then she'd blink—closing the shutter, opening it fast—as if she were obliged to memorialize each piece in turn. She would have set up little groupings of furniture, she thought—not at all sure just then, only trying the notion on for size.

Something has to give, she decided—shaking her head at the ugly loop and setting to work on a nicer composition. She pictured the curvy sofa from the corner paired up with the coffee table in front of her; then she tossed in the velvet chairs by the window. Emma nodded her head in approval, floating little arrangements like that all around the room.

From the time she was a girl, Emma had known you couldn't just expect people to see the value of a thing. No, she thought, you have to work until they see it, and keep working, even then.

She wasn't quite finished with the exhibition space either. She'd add some nice rugs too, she decided. She pictured them soft and worn, old Persians like the kind she used to find at tag sales for a song—back when she didn't have much more than a song to spend. She saw rugs like grassy green lawns over hard-packed earth, rugs like tender skin over skeletons of bone.

She was almost pleased, but tired too.

Emma never stopped working—like a scullery maid practically, even in somebody else's auction house. She was always trying to make things nice, to raise herself up in the world's esteem—only to watch people cheer at her every setback, just like her father had done a million years before.

They used wall-to-wall carpeting before me, she thought, her well-groomed head lifted high.

Emma wasn't overestimating her impact on interior design: what she said went—whether it was covering a wall in elaborately flocked paper, or assembling a crazy quilt of rugs on the floor. When Emma Sutton spoke, America listened. She tried her best not to hear the soft clickings of her shoes—the very way she'd tried shrugging off the sting of her father's low regard: without much success, it turned out.

It was only half a year since her "difficulties" had passed. That was how she thought of them: the bruising trial and the prison stretch, those humiliating months of home confinement, and a waterfall of wretched press—all for some stupid little tax return that shouldn't have made a jot of difference in the world. And even after her confinement, Emma still wasn't entitled to take back the reins of her company. That was part of her punishment too. Emma Sutton couldn't run Emma Sutton, not for the time being anyway. Her lawyers didn't think she'd be able to for five more years, at least. She just worked there now, like any other employee—assuming any other employee could make everyone in the building tremble in their boots.

Emma's Table
A Novel
. Copyright © by Philip Galanes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 7, 2011

    Is that fair?

    PW sounds a bit more favorable. It's a shame that just one review can sink an entire book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2009

    Horrible

    Waste of time.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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