Strangers at the Feast: Book summary and reviews of Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes

Strangers at the Feast

A Novel

By Jennifer Vanderbes

Strangers at the Feast
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2010,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

On Thanksgiving Day 2007, as the country teeters on the brink of a recession, three generations of the Olson family gather. Eleanor and Gavin worry about their daughter, a single academic, and her newly adopted Indian child, and about their son, who has been caught in the imploding real-estate bubble. While the Olsons navigate the tensions and secrets that mark their relationships, seventeen-year-old Kijo Jackson and his best friend Spider set out from the nearby housing projects on a mysterious job. A series of tragic events bring these two worlds ever closer, exposing the dangerously thin line between suburban privilege and urban poverty, and culminating in a crime that will change everyone’s life.

In her gripping new book, Jennifer Vanderbes masterfully lays bare the fraught lives of this complex cast of characters and the lengths to which they will go to protect their families. Strangers at the Feast is at once a heartbreaking portrait of a family struggling to find happiness and an exploration of the hidden costs of the American dream.

Published to international acclaim, Jennifer Vanderbes’s first book, Easter Island, was hailed as “one of those rare novels that appeals equally to heart, mind, and soul,” by the San Francisco Chronicle. In her second novel, this powerful writer reaches new heights of storytelling. This page-turner wrestles with the most important issues of our time—race, class, and above all else, family. Strangers at the Feast will leave readers haunted and deeply affected.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Vanderbes has written an absorbing and suspenseful story about the dynamics of family, generational misunderstandings, and the desperate ways one copes with both the arbitrariness of fate and the consequences of one's choices. " - Library Journal

"Vanderbes lays on the cultural ironies a little too thickly in what is otherwise an inventively plotted, highly readable novel about white Americans’ overweening sense of entitlement." - Booklist

"Vanderbes spins her wheels on a toothless Corrections-lite family saga that winds its way to an ever-so-unlikely big bang conclusion." - Publishers Weekly

"Excessive back story overshadows forward momentum in a compassionate though schematic portrait of middle-class characters in crisis." - Kirkus

Family conflict, fascinating social commentary, and a riveting plot converge in Jennifer Vanderbes' stunning Strangers at the Feast, a thriller that also raises large and haunting questions about the meaning of guilt, innocence, and justice." - Karen Holt, O, The Oprah Magazine

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by jenn
Strangers at the Feast
Also thought it was well written and great character development. May have been a little long winded at times but I think it will be a great discussion at book club. I am from the area where this book takes place so I could relate to the characters and the themes related to the characters lives.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Diane S.
Strangers at the Feast
I quite enjoyed the way the author let his characters tell their own stories. By book end the reader has a thorough understanding of how the characters have ended up where they are and why they have reacted the way they do. This is a very well written novel with an important message as well as a precautionary tale showing how people sometimes pursue things without thinking of possible consequences.

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Author Information

Jennifer Vanderbes Author Biography

Jennifer Vanderbes was born in New York City in 1974. She received her B.A. in English Literature from Yale and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow. After graduate school, she was awarded a McCreight Fiction Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin, and then the Creative Writing Fellowship at Colgate University. Her first novel, Easter Island was named a "best book of 2003" by the Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor and was translated into 16 languages.

Vanderbes has taught creative writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and Columbia University's M.F.A. program. She was a 2006 Guggenheim Fellow, and was recently named a Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library for 2007-2008.

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