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A Place at the Table: A Novel
     

A Place at the Table: A Novel

3.3 10
by Susan Rebecca White
 

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From Susan Rebecca White, award-winning author of A Soft Place to Land and Bound South, comes a breathtaking story of three richly nuanced outcasts whose paths converge in a chic Manhattan café as they realize they must give up everything they thought they knew to find a home at last.

Alice Stone is famous for the homemade southern cuisine she

Overview

From Susan Rebecca White, award-winning author of A Soft Place to Land and Bound South, comes a breathtaking story of three richly nuanced outcasts whose paths converge in a chic Manhattan café as they realize they must give up everything they thought they knew to find a home at last.

Alice Stone is famous for the homemade southern cuisine she serves at Café Andres and her groundbreaking cookbook, but her past is a mystery to all who know her. Upon Alice’s retirement, Bobby Banks, a young gay man ostracized by his family in Georgia, sets out to revive the aging café with his new brand of southern cooking while he struggles with heartbreak like he’s never known. Seeking respite from the breakup of her marriage, wealthy divorcée Amelia Brighton finds solace in the company and food at Café Andres, until a family secret comes to light in the pages of Alice’s cookbook and threatens to upend her life.

In her most accomplished novel yet, Susan Rebecca White braids together the stories of these three unforgettable characters who must learn that when you embrace the thing that makes you different, you become whole.

Editorial Reviews

author of The Night Train - Clyde Edgerton
"No writer should be able to write smoothly and cleanly from three very different perspectives about lost love, betrayal, pound cake, fear, family ties, racism, Baptists, "the other," Episcopalians, the south, and New York. But Susan Rebecca White has--and without a false note nor a single sentimental pink bow. All this in her new and best novel yet: A Place at the Table. The story is suspenseful, surprising in the best way, and ultimately resounding. It's so good I wish I could tell you more about it. The story will bring you face to face with all sorts of demons and lovely things--and with some very real people whom you just may recognize as family."
Joshilyn Jackson
"Susan Rebecca White is a first rate talent whose work is like good bread; it rises, and it leaves us filled. A Place at the Table is a love story written for expats and orphans, for all who seek home and find it in the most beautiful, the most unlikely place. This is a glorious novel, told in a pitch perfect voice. I love this book."
Lydia Netzer
A Place at the Table reads like a master chef's five course meal: each section makes its own delicious sense, but taken all together the intertwining stories in this novel create something uniquely magical. Susan Rebecca White made me think, made me cry, made my jaw drop, made me laugh out loud. A story of outsiders in this world, this fantastic book defies convention in plot, characterization, and even narrative structure, to forge something amazing in its pages: new identities, relationships you have not seen before, new stories, characters you will never forget. Like a brilliant new recipe: it works! Savor this confident storytelling -- you'll know you're in good hands from the first page. A book you'll devour quickly and then want to share with friends!”
Karen Abbott
“Susan Rebecca White creates a world as exact as a documentary film and as lyrically imagined as a poem, moving seamlessly between the voices of three disparate characters whose lives connect in surprising and satisfying ways. She has a remarkable ear for dialogue and gift for crafting moments—both big and small—that reveal humanity in all its awkward, muddled splendor. A Place at the Table stayed with me long after I turned the last page.”
Booklist
A Place at the Table is the story of troubled souls finding their way and making a place for themselves through the magic of the big city and a love of cooking. With unforgettable characters, rich detail, and seamless narration, White's new novel will long remain in the reader's mind and memory, a gentle reminder of the importance of acceptance in all it's forms and the myriad connections that surround us."
The Bitter Southerner
“The greatest Southern literature — from Faulkner on down — has dealt squarely with the broken pieces of the South. But White does this difficult work firmly in the modern age. The topics of classical Southern writing — race, class, religion — are all there, but she explores our more modern challenges, such as the acceptance of gay sons and daughters into our families, with a directness and courage that would do Flannery O’Connor proud….White has the remarkable ability — shared by only the greatest storytellers — to let her characters be who they are, for better or worse. Her writing never leads the reader to conclusions; it lets us draw our own.”
The Anniston Star
"White is convinced that coincidence doesn't exist, that we come together becasue there is a grand plan always at work. Rendering that truth so confidently and effortlessly--that is White's magic. Wanting each of us to find a place at the table--that is White's gift."
San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review
"Beautifully written...inspiring."
Associated Press Staff
“Tasty…fascinating…each character is a convincing creation…a pleasure.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Great expectations follow when a book opens with three distinct, seemingly unrelated story lines because you know somehow they all will be lashed together by the end….White’s ability to write with a believable voice from three such disparate perspectives keeps the “How?” at bay, while providing a sounding board for social issues that continue to confront us today.”
Atlanta
"Beautifully told...White's characters are drawn with tremendous care and precision....perfectly observed."
Good Housekeeping
For fans of The Help, a tale of Southern exiles--an older black woman (based on legendary chef Edna Lewis) and a young gay man--who find each other in New York City through their love of down-home cooking."
The Roanoke Times
"Engaging...a story of acceptance, of finding oneself, and of healing."
Publishers Weekly
In this latest from an emerging Southern literary voice, White (A Soft Place to Land) muses on friendship, the connecting power of food, and the effects of a Southern heritage on one's search for identity. The tale begins with Alice Stone and her brother James, a close-knit pair growing up in 1920's Negro-owned Emancipation Township, North Carolina. James is sent to New York because of his "uppity" attitude, and the book's focus abruptly shifts to Bobby, a white boy from a strict religious family in 1970's Georgia. His later career as a chef in a famous New York restaurant is foreshadowed in his love for cooking with his mother and grandmother, whose pound cakes are legendary. The savings from thousands of sold pound cakes fund Bobby's escape to New York when his family ostracizes him for being gay. Here he meets renowned chef and cookbook author, Alice Stone. However, their stories don't truly intersect until Amelia, a wealthy Connecticut woman in a failing marriage, happens upon the scene. Once again, food, prospective cookbooks, and Southern influences link characters before they discover a deeper connection through guarded secrets from the past. White's prose is graceful and evocative, but the plot stumbles as the disparate characters' trajectories become muddled in each other's stories. (June)
From the Publisher
"No writer should be able to write smoothly and cleanly from three very different perspectives about lost love, betrayal, pound cake, fear, family ties, racism, Baptists, "the other," Episcopalians, the south, and New York. But Susan Rebecca White has—and without a false note nor a single sentimental pink bow. All this in her new and best novel yet: A Place at the Table. The story is suspenseful, surprising in the best way, and ultimately resounding. It's so good I wish I could tell you more about it. The story will bring you face to face with all sorts of demons and lovely things—and with some very real people whom you just may recognize as family."

"Susan Rebecca White is a first rate talent whose work is like good bread; it rises, and it leaves us filled. A Place at the Table is a love story written for expats and orphans, for all who seek home and find it in the most beautiful, the most unlikely place. This is a glorious novel, told in a pitch perfect voice. I love this book."

A Place at the Table reads like a master chef's five course meal: each section makes its own delicious sense, but taken all together the intertwining stories in this novel create something uniquely magical. Susan Rebecca White made me think, made me cry, made my jaw drop, made me laugh out loud. A story of outsiders in this world, this fantastic book defies convention in plot, characterization, and even narrative structure, to forge something amazing in its pages: new identities, relationships you have not seen before, new stories, characters you will never forget. Like a brilliant new recipe: it works! Savor this confident storytelling — you'll know you're in good hands from the first page. A book you'll devour quickly and then want to share with friends!”

“Susan Rebecca White creates a world as exact as a documentary film and as lyrically imagined as a poem, moving seamlessly between the voices of three disparate characters whose lives connect in surprising and satisfying ways. She has a remarkable ear for dialogue and gift for crafting moments—both big and small—that reveal humanity in all its awkward, muddled splendor. A Place at the Table stayed with me long after I turned the last page.”

A Place at the Table is the story of troubled souls finding their way and making a place for themselves through the magic of the big city and a love of cooking. With unforgettable characters, rich detail, and seamless narration, White's new novel will long remain in the reader's mind and memory, a gentle reminder of the importance of acceptance in all it's forms and the myriad connections that surround us."

Kirkus Reviews
White (A Soft Place to Land, 2010) was clearly inspired by the friendship of Atlanta chef Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis in this labored story about a young gay man who leaves Atlanta for Manhattan and is taken under the wing of a legendary African-American female chef. In 1929 rural North Carolina, 12-year-old Alice is separated from her beloved twin, James, when he is sent north after a lynching. Her consolation is cooking, and she grows up to be a world-famous chef. In 1970s suburban Atlanta, white middle-class teenager Bobby becomes an outcast in his conservative, Christian family once his sexual orientation is known. White's Atlanta is geographically correct--she loves to drop street names--but her descriptions lack any of the city's complexity during that decade. With a small inheritance from his understanding, saintly grandmother, Bobby heads to New York in 1981 and begins working as an assistant to owner Gus at Café Andres, the restaurant Alice opened with Gus years earlier. She has since moved on to write a famous cookbook but agrees to attend a luncheon put together by Bobby. The lunch is a failure--Alice is cool and preoccupied while her agent, Kate, is interrupted by a visit from her niece Amelia, distraught over a marital crisis--but Bobby goes on to make a name for himself as chef at Café Andres; unfortunately, the food descriptions sound like menu entries, lacking real passion or sensuality. Shortly after Bobby's longtime lover dies from AIDS in 1988, he runs into Alice again. She apologizes for her previous rudeness, and soon, they are inseparable; not only do they share a love of Southern cooking, but both have loved and lost Jewish men. In 1989, Kate's niece Amelia finally leaves her philandering husband, who happens to be from a well-heeled neighborhood of Atlanta. She moves to Manhattan and begins to uncover the predictable yet farfetched secret hidden within Alice's cookbook. Turgid prose pits ever so sensitive heroes and heroines against intolerant bullies.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451608892
Publisher:
Touchstone
Publication date:
03/04/2014
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
446,990
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Place at the Table

Prologue


Alice and James

in North Carolina

What People are Saying About This

author of The Night Train - Clyde Edgerton
"No writer should be able to write smoothly and cleanly from three very different perspectives about lost love, betrayal, pound cake, fear, family ties, racism, Baptists, "the other," Episcopalians, the south, and New York. But Susan Rebecca White has—and without a false note nor a single sentimental pink bow. All this in her new and best novel yet: A Place at the Table. The story is suspenseful, surprising in the best way, and ultimately resounding. It's so good I wish I could tell you more about it. The story will bring you face to face with all sorts of demons and lovely things—and with some very real people whom you just may recognize as family.

Meet the Author

Susan Rebecca White is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Bound South and A Soft Place to Land. Born and raised in Atlanta, she spent many years in San Francisco before returning to her hometown, where she teaches creative writing at Emory University. Visit her online at SusanRebeccaWhite.com.

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