This was my pick for the August 2018 Book of the Month box!
“I love you, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not happy.”
Friends, I wanted to love this so much. And at first, this really did feel like watching a lucid dream play out, and I felt so enthralled and captivated! But as time went on, I just cared less and less about the dinner, about the past, and about this book.
The Dinner List is a play on the conversation starter of which five people would you bring to a dinner party, dead or alive? And our main character, Sabrina, is living that reality on her thirtieth birthday this December. We get thrown into a present day restaurant with her and the five people she chose, while the chapters alternate between her past and a romance that has completely consumed her life for almost a decade.
➽ Audrey Hepburn -I mean, she’s pretty self-explanatory. But besides being Sabrina’s namesake, her movies also held a high importance in some pivotal moments in Sabrina’s life.
➽ Professor Conrad – A college professor who I guess made a big impact on her. I’ll be honest, I kept waiting for “more” with this dinner guest choice.
➽ Robert – The father that she never knew, because he left when she was little.
➽ Jessica – Her best friend throughout most of her life.
➽ Tobias – The greatest love of her life. And again, this story is truly about why he is at this dinner and why they aren’t currently together.
“But it’s also not an easy thing to be married to darkness. Eventually I dimmed so far I extinguished.”
Yet, the constant theme of this book is fate and how a ripple effect can really change our lives because of a few choices we made while not really even thinking. I mean, I know this is true of my life, and I’m sure for most of you. Yet, we get to see Sabrina’s play out more and more between each alternating chapter.
As I read through more and more of the story, I felt more captivated by the chapters set in the past and found the present dinner chapters much less enjoyable. Especially with the friend Jessica. I honestly started to hate her towards the end of the book, which I’m not sure will be a mutual feeling with more readers, or not.
I mean, this entire book is trying to talk about how none of us are perfect, and how we all make mistakes. But, man, Jessica just felt like such a bad friend throughout this entire novel. Like, she had no redeeming qualities for me, like everyone else at the table did.
“All we needed was to stay this close. Right up against each other, without any space between us. If we did that, we were good. It was just the world—with all its loud chaos, its demands and people and air—that made us fight…””
But I will also be honest and say that I disliked Sabrina and Tobias more, too. I feel like this just really isn’t the healthiest depiction of love. And I get that love can be messy, and complicated, and hard to even put into words, but you have to be happy. You can’t keep settling, over and over, because you’re scared of upsetting your partner. I will say that I don’t even know what Sabrina ever truly wanted, but I never once thought her and Tobias had anything remotely healthy. Sex and cuddling are important, but you have to be able to count on the person you’re sharing your life with. And that doesn’t have an age limit and shouldn’t be glossed over like, “oh they just don’t want to grow up!” I’ve seen sixteen-year-olds in healthier relationships than them. And you never, ever, have to lose something to know it’s worth and value. Miss me with that garbage thinking.
Overall, this book just wasn’t for me. And I hope if you pick it up that you’ll enjoy it more than I did. I also recommend reading this in close to one or two sittings for a better experience. I almost think me putting it down for fifty pages at a time did me a disservice even more, since the story really does have a “dream like” quality to it, and I was probably making it feel more jarring than it needed to be.
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Content and trigger warnings for abandonment, talk of alcoholism, talk of cheating, talk of miscarrying, talk of unhealthy dieting, talk of cancer, and loss of a loved one.