Written By: Susan Rebecca White
Published by: Touchstone an imprint of Simon and Schuster June 4, 2013
Length: 336 pages
I had no expectations when I began this book, I read the synopsis from the publisher on the back of the advanced copy I received but I was not really prepared for where this book took me.
Mr. White begins by taking us to rural North Caroline 1929, to a town called Emancipation where a town of freed black slaves had begun and now flurishes. There are still ignorant hateful people who will do them harm. Two children witness the remains of an awful lynching and one is sent away….to protect him from those who may do the same to him. This divides and separates a family and a deep love.
The author then takes us to Decatur Georgia, just outside of Atlanta, the home of Bobby. Bobby is the youngest of 3 boys, his mother is a southern lady. She is full of charm and grace and loves having ladies for tea or lunch. Bobby is a loner, always looking for a best friend. Bobby realizes early on he is different, very close to his mother, he enjoys her clothes, prepping for her parties and things that other boys his age don’t like. Bobby can’t even say that he is gay, it’s not a part of his youth in 1970’s Georgia. He is tormented by his brother and has very few outlets. He is loved by his grandmother, his “MeeMaw” who makes the worlds best pound cake. Love and food go hand in hand in Bobby’s world. In a traumatic outing of his desires he is ostracized by his parents and finds love in his meemaw and the courage to leave the south and make something of himself in New York City.
A Place at the Table is a book about three main characters, Bobby who I’ve mentioned, Alice a southern black woman who became a famous chef and cookbook author in NYC, and Amelia a wealthy Connecticut woman who is unhappy and find her once settled life turned upside down. The three have a common bond, a chic restaurant in NYC…the food and the love and the people who bring them together will change their lives.
This book blew me away! My heart was breaking for Bobby as he tried to find a place to belong. His journey to NYC was rocky and yet I was so thrilled as he began to find a place where his sexual preferences were not what stood out most about him. He was befriended by Gus Andres, owner of Cafe Andres. Gus is employer, mentor, nurturer and rock solid friend to Bobby. His separation from his family is tragic, his only contact becomes a serious of letters he writes them. Bobby’s journey takes us through the very turbulent 80’s in NYC and amid the early AIDS crisis. I’m able to recall my own reactions to the newly titled and shocking epidemic that swept over our country. The once named gay plague crept slowly but startlingly over to the heterosexual community. I still shake my head at the ignorance of our medical and government leaders in not communicating and helping slow this disease. I’ve lost one than one friend to AIDS. I remember when my first straight friend found out….a friend who was also in my wedding…shock…and sadness filled us both. Ms. White has written the character of Bobby and his life so beautifully, I ached when I read each hurdle he had to jump.
Alice was a secret keeper, raised in the south, she brought her own style to gourmet food in NYC. She was an African American woman doing things in the 1940’s and 50’s that no one had heard of. She was enormously private and shared very little of her life. She opened up some to her book editor Kate, they become friends.
Kate also happens to be Aunt to Amelia, she is also her confidant. Kate is perhaps the only honest and open person Amelia has in her life. She will become just what Amelia needs when she decides to change her life…and learn just who she really is.
This is a fabulous book..5 stars!! I was swept into this book from page one, wanting to know more, wanting to learn the connections and what would happen to Bobby and the others. I was angry at how people hide and keep secrets, and we all have them. I can only see the hurt from these secrets, in the end was anyone ever saved anything from these? Without saying more, I can only implore you to read this now!! Lucky for you Susan Rebecca White has given me a copy to give away!! Just leave a comment below before Wednesday July 17th midnight and you’ll be entered to win. Please make sure I can link to your email or leave in the comments. Thanks and Good Luck!