Synopses & Reviews
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.
“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.” -O
, The Oprah Magazine “An inventively plotted, highly readable novel about white Americans’ overweening sense of entitlement.” -Booklist
“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
(starred review) “Jennifer Vanderbes does that rare thing in a novel: she stands back and lets her characters talk.
STRANGERS AT THE FEAST is filled with smart conversation, as well as humor, depth, sorrow and surprise. This is a big and satisfying book.”
-Meg Wolitzer, author of TEN YEAR NAP “The incomparable Jennifer Vanderbes has done it again. Training her sights on the intimate workings of a single suburban every-family, she manages to invoke the whole history of a continent, while simultaneously engaging some of the thorniest questions of our times. This is a book that dares to ask: What went wrong, and right, in America? Gorgeously written and uncompromising in its vision, STRANGERS AT THE FEAST is more than a great novel. It’s an important one.”
-Justin Cronin, Author of THE PASSAGE “STRANGERS AT THE FEAST is a novel of collision courses. Here is a neurotic family trying as best they can to make it through Thanksgiving. Here are a pair of hapless burglars. Here are husbands and wives, parents and children, whose perspectives place them in different universes. Jennifer Vanderbes weaves these vectors together with magical, jaw-dropping fluidity. The book has the mordant, hilarious observations of high comedy, and the compassion of a tragic character study, and the page-turning suspense of a thriller. I flew through this wonderful novel and I can't wait to read it again.”
-Dan Chaon, author of AWAIT YOUR REPLY "Elegant and insightful and delightfully precise...Jennifer Vanderbes' Strangers At The Feast is a bona-fide delicacy." -John Wray, author of LOWBOY
“Compelling. It's punctuated with sharp observations about class and race, about the winners and losers in America's power grabs, and about the ways a family can play out a culture's conflicts.”
“A tour de force that traces the long history of two families’ decisions to their inevitable, chilling intersection...A must-read.”
“Vanderbes has gracefully accomplished the difficult narrative feat of creating a family, which, while emblematic of shifts in the American way of life, is composed of completely realized individuals.”
"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."
"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. "
“Gorgeously written and uncompromising in its vision, Strangers at the Feast is more than a great novel. It's an important one.”
“Jennifer Vanderbes does that rare thing in a novel: she stands back and lets her characters talk. Strangers at the Feast is filled with smart conversation, as well as humor, depth, sorrow and surprise. This is a big and satisfying book.”
"Vanderbes sensitively surveys static careers, unhappy wives and fearful adults pressured by stressful times and expectations, culminating in an explosive blast of what-goes-around-comes-around dark irony."
About the Author
Jennifer Vanderbes is the author of the novels The Secret of Raven Point, Easter Island, and Strangers at the Feast, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a New York Public Library Cullman Fellowship. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Granta and has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in New York City. Visit her website at JenniferVanderbes.com.