On public broadcasting, sometimes there are reruns of this hoary old show with terrible production values called “Meeting of Minds.” I always loved history so I loved that show so the premise of The Dinner List, it made me think of Steve Allen’s old show and frankly, who hasn’t played the who would you invite to dinner game?
The interesting thing about Sabrina’s list is how personal it is. The only celebrity is Audrey Hepburn whose Sabrina inspired her name. Her Hepburn-loving father is a second guest. A college professor who inspired her, her former lover, and best friend round out the list. They meet over a delicious dinner at an elegant New York restaurant. As they go through the courses, the narrative goes back and forth between the dinner conversation and Sabby’s recollection and explanation of the background to the conversation, basically the history of her lack of relationship with her father, her friendship with Jessica, and the ups and downs of her love affair with Tobias.
The Dinner List surprised me. I expected something closer to “Meeting of Minds” so I was surprised by the relatively mundane choice of guests. But then, I think of having a chance to sit down with my parents or my brother and sister again, that would be amazing. Nonetheless, I think I would not think of them when playing the game and would instead think of John Locke or Thomas Cranmer or Albert Einstein or others of their caliber. So that was the first surprise.
The other big surprise is kind of a spoiler, so let me just say there is some appeal in meeting with an ex to figure out what went wrong. It would depend on how well I understood the reasons for the relationship failing. Sometimes they just don’t work because people can’t figure out how to do more than love each other, you know, things like live together, respect each other, all those quotidian and boring things that go into making things work.
I like The Dinner List mainly because there is an authentic feeling of honesty and self-examination. Sabby is learning and changing over the course of this dinner and she with her lovely dessert, she gets a sweeter ending than you might have expected at the beginning.
The Dinner List will be released on September 11th. I received an advance copy from the publisher for review through Shelf Awareness.