⇒When you invite your 5 people to dinner, what will you have to apologize for, or forgive?⇐
Author: Rebecca Serle
(3.64 stars – Goodreads rating)
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Romance
Published September 11, 2018, by Flatiron Books
Pages: 276 (Hardcover)
Companionship. Let me sit with you in silence. Let me hold your hand and understand.
Waaaay back in 2015, I tried my hand at modern-day journaling. You’ve seen it on Pinterest and Instagram: bullet journaling, wreck-this-journal, etc. I wasn’t consistent with it, but the few pages I finished are pretty creative, even if I do say so myself.
One of those pages is titled “Last Supper Guests” and lists 12 people I would want to share a dinner party with and why. Get it? 12 people, Last Supper. Hey, I didn’t make it up. My list include Neil deGrasse Tyson (because I have exactly 1.2 million questions for him about the universe), Kelly Clarkson (because I just know that we’d be great friends), chef Bobby Flay (because, hey, somebody’s gotta cook. BBQ, please!), author Janet Evanovich (so we could sit and hash out how her characters Stephanie and Ranger can end up together), Criss Angel (because a magical evening deserves the mindfreak of magic), and the absolute best background music by Norah Jones.
That is the premise of Rebecca Serle’s The Dinner List. 20-something Sabrina Nielson spreads her young adult wings in NYC and learns a lot about love and sacrifice in a city that takes no prisoners. When she finds herself at her own 30th birthday dinner table surrounded by five people – some of whom couldn’t possibly really be there – it seems that it’s finally time to face some hard truths.
There are flowers and there are gardeners. Flowers bloom; gardeners tend. Two flowers, no tending. Everything dies.
I can imagine any university Lit professor having a field day deconstructing and analyzing this book. Not that it’s heavy or complicated – quite the opposite, in fact. It’s meaningful and relevant in relatable and extremely familiar ways. We’ve all wondered “what if?”, or what we’d say to such-and-such person if we ever saw them again. Well, The Dinner List gives main character, Sabrina, just such an opportunity.
Serle cleverly unveils Sabrina’s last 10 years through insights into each guest’s character and their contributions to her life. As we seamlessly jump from her improbable dinner party to past events that have led up to this night, we learn why these particular guests are there and why Sabrina needs each of them in order to move into the next decade of her life successfully.
Our problem wasn’t us together, it was us in the world – a world that demanded we reconcile its reality with our romance.
Picking five people to share an all-important meal with is a monumental task. For my journal, I listed 12 and I still struggled! Plus, my list isn’t designed to help me answer some existential question – I just planned on having a party!
OK, back to the book… This is a very fast read, one that can easily be done in a day, but don’t rush through it! There is great meaning in these pages, and you don’t want to miss any of the insights shared via these uniquely honest characters. The highs and lows feel genuine and I love how Serle doesn’t wait until the end to throw a monkey wrench into the whole works.
Although it is, ultimately, a love story, The Dinner List is so much more than that; it’s a life story. And I’m so glad I got to read it without being graded on how adeptly I could suss out its meaning!
Rebecca Serle is an author and television writer who lives between New York and Los Angeles. Serle most recently co-developed the hit TV adaptation of her young adult series Famous in Love, now on Freeform. She loves Nancy Meyers films, bathrobes, and giving unsolicited advice on love.