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Strangers at the Feast: A Novel

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  854 ratings  ·  245 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 relat ...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Scribner (first published July 16th 2010)
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What is it about Thanksgiving that makes it such a juicy setting for a dysfunctional family gathering? This was good and I plan to write a review later...
switterbug (Betsey)
American mythologizing of Thanksgiving is still perpetuated--the idea of goodwill between Indigenous Americans and European "pilgrims" and the lie that America was founded on cooperation and integrity rather than eminent domain and genocide. The myth of the first Thanksgiving shapes and parallels the thematic core of Vanderbes' new novel, a scathing, biting, and bitterly droll portrait of a suburban family that takes place on Thanksgiving 2007. It is no coincidence that Stamford Connecticut, the ...more
Jacki Leach
Any book dealing with the housing crisis would not interest most financially-depressed Americans. When I received a copy of 'Strangers at the Feast' by Jennifer Vanderbes, and read the notes, I wasn't sure that I would find anything of interest. Depression, most likely.

But the minute I broke down and opened the book, I couldn't put it down.

The Olson family is celebrating Thanksgiving 2007. Gavin, the patriarch, is a Vietnam war vet who finds solace in his silence. His wife, Eleanor, reminded me
Let me say it straight out: this book is astoundingly GOOD. Page-turning, jaw-dropping, laugh-out-loud, cry-into-your-sleeves, gasp-with-recognition GOOD. It takes on nothing less than the theme of what is wrong with America today and it does it very well.

The action takes place over one Thanksgiving day with lots of flashbacks. There hasn’t been a family like the Olsons since Zoe Heller’s The Believers – with a dollop of the movie Pieces of April blended in. This family DEFINES dysfunction.

Mary Verdick
Incredibly sad, but funny too!

The Olson family has gathered together for Thanksgiving dinner at daughter's Ginny's house, a college professor who has just adopted a mute 7-year-old girl from India. Her brother Douglas has overextended himself in the real estate market and since the bubble burst is almost broke, much to the dismay and scorn of his wife Denise. Of course their three young children are present, and the grandparents, Eleanor and Gavin, who love each other but have little in common.
I am not sure I would have picked it up to read on my own. I received it from Simon and Schuster as a giveaway and I am really grateful for that opportunity because I really enjoyed the book.
The author skillfully shines a light on so many issues facing society today. Throughout the book, the author’s use of comments by the characters, to foreshadow the last scene, is very effective. In one day, many of their insecurities and fears are revealed, almost casually, and often with humor. Without bein
I am in awe of this book. Every once in awhile a book comes along that just takes my breath away and this book did that for me.

A horrific crime occurs on Thanksgiving Day as 3 families gather together. The families include parents of 2 grown children and their children. BUT, take note, this plot doesn’t even begin to describe all the sub-stories that unfold in these family'a lives. It becomes much, much deeper than that.

Listed below are some quotes which struck me and were taken from different
Erin Shull
I wanted to like this novel more than I actually did, and ultimately found it very disappointing. I found the characters that Vanderbes created to be initially interesting, and thought her foreshadowing and tension building to be enough to keep me turning the pages, but then grew irritated at the two dimensional characters, who she never fully rounds out beyond stereotypes (the academic do-gooder, the traditional babyboomer housewife, the ambitious and greedy son, the poor but well-meaning black ...more
I liked how each character took turns telling about themselves and they where true to thierselves.
how real they were. i can see so many pieces of people that i know in them.
I agree with some of the characters and disagree withsome. I thing the way soldiers were treated durning and after vetnam a disgrace. those who spit on them are the blighted ones. I am a mix of genny and her mom.
I wanted to know more about the characters what happened next to them.
I would have liked a different ending. Happy
Stephen Kiernan
This book is eerily prescient about the present day. The plot is simple enough, following a semi-functional New York family through Thanksgiving day in 2007. Yet it contains the distant rumbles of economic collapse, the offhandedness of privilege, and in an unexpected (though fully prepared) act of violence, it reveals the underbelly of race relations in America in ways frighteningly similar to the unarmed boy recently shot to death by a man not charged in the incident. If fiction is a means of ...more
Lisa Lesyshen
This was a total surprise that I loved this book. It starts out as a simple straight forward book however every chapter creates a new twist and new layer. A great great book!
I just finished the book and I am spellbound. I browsed through the reviews posted here. Many loved this book because of the artful sketch of American suburbia life. And the characters are convincing and complex. But, that is only a small aspect of this book. I think most of the general public, even many well-read folks, will miss the depth of the story and Vanderbes should not apologize because I like stories that change you without you knowing why. Clues; houses on Freedom fries & WMD in r ...more
Emily Crowe
Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good. Because I seem to have gotten myself not only on an advance access reading list from Simon & Schuster, but on their mailing list for finished copies of books, too. About a month ago I received a copy of Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes from the good folks at Scribner, along with a copy of The Hundred Foot Journey (reviewed here), which makes me suspect that it might be a mailing list catering to bookclubs.

I bar
Carla Ford
I loved this book! Reading it was like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle, where every piece that you put in it's place brought the picture just a little more into focus. By the end of the book, you had a complete picture, and realized that every piece was of equal importance, each piece contributed to the whole, and the picture would not have been complete if any of the pieces were missing. I think my mouth fell open about one third of the way through the book, and hung that way until long ...more
This was the first book we read for the new book club I'm in (one of two!) We had all heard good things about this one . . . and we were all disappointed. On the surface this seems like it would really be up my alley (I love books about families in crisis!), but unfortunately the characters were so unlikeable that I couldn't get into it. And beyond unlikeable, I just didn't find them that interesting--there was the mother who was fragile and old-fashioned, the son who lost his money in the real ...more
A family gathers for Thanksgiving, all having their own problems, that they are caught up in. At the same time there is a family who lost their home to one of the Olsen family's greed to wipe everyone on a block out of their homes, so that his company can build a building on their land. He has one home in particular condemned for blight and the family loses the home they have lived in for generations. Kuji and his friend are out on Thanksgiving hoping to make a point to the Olsen family. The two ...more
Strangers at the Feast tells the story of the dysfunctional Olson family as they gather for Thanksgiving dinner, 2007. Little does the family have reason to suspect that their day will end in tragedy. The three generations of family members consists of Gavin, quiet, aloof, Vietnam Vet; his wife Eleanor ; their two children Douglas, (married to Denise with three children). Gavin and Eleanor's single daughter Ginger, an intellectual working in academia, is hosting the dinner in her newly acquired, ...more
The Olson family gathers to celebrate the Thanksgiving holidays at the home of one of its members, Ginny. Ginny has recently made some drastic changes to her life, adopting a daughter from India, buying a house and her decision to host the family for this event is surprising but seems to be in line with this new phase of her life. Her brother Douglas and his wife Denise are drowning in severe debt as a result of Douglas's over speculation in the real estate market that has now gone bust. So whil ...more
Strangers at the Feast is set on Thanksgiving Day in Connecticut in 2007. The story is told from many points of view, from different members of the Olsen family coming together for the holiday, and from a young black man who attempts to fight back against those who have hurt him.

The Olsen family is filled with dysfunction: past hurts, insecutities, loneliness, financial difficulties, the list goes on. The character that really stood out for me was Eleanor, the grandmother. For some reason her
Diane D.
Sep 08, 2010 Diane D. rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Diane D. by: Oprah August Issue - the Reading Room
I wrestled with 3 to 4 stars for this book. Let's say 3.5. The synopsis given when you click on the book here on GR is very accurate.

The Olson family -- Eleanor and Gavin (the early 60 year old parents) and their grown children (Ginny-single/liberal/guardian of a mute girl she brings home from India; and Doug and his wife, Denise, and their 3 children...very well off family, caught up in the 9-11 economic bust) gather at Ginny's newly purchased house (a true "fixer"), but since her oven fails in
The Short of It:

Just like a runaway train, Strangers at the Feast picks up speed and hurls you toward its dramatic conclusion. You won’t be able to put this one down.

The Rest of It:

It’s Thanksgiving day. Ginny, has invited her parents, her brother, his wife and their three kids to enjoy dinner in her new home. Ginny, single and an academic sort at that, is not well-versed in the kitchen, but is excited about hosting such an important meal. The others are excited about the prospect of seeing he
Really, really good read.

Briefly this is about a day in the life of the Olson family. Thanksgiving Day, 2007.

We learn all about Eleanor and Gavin, who are now concerned about their single daughter, an academic who has just bought at house and adopted an Indian girl of 7. And about their son, who is married with 3 children, but who is caught in the imploding real estate bubble.

Meanwhile 2 black teenagers set out from the nearby housing projects on a mysterious job.

Tragic events bring the 2 worlds
Mar Preston
This book pulled together so many themes and characters exemplifying contemporary American life that I admire the author. It's Thanksgiving Day in upscale Connecticut, and two generations of the family, divided by terrible secrets, come together to share the holiday. A second set of characters are unwelcome guests, and one of the family empties a gun into the intruders.

Anyone of the family could have done it, but it's not the one you expect.

The richness lies in the characters, the father a repr
Mary Ronan Drew
Here's the description from 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 ...more
I was stuck on an airplane for seven hours with my Kindle and this book so I did finish it, but.....

I didn't like anyone in this book, which usually doesn't make me dislike a whole book, but in this case I think it did. I just didn't care whether they ended up having Thanksgiving together or not, because THEY didn't really care either!

It altogether gave me a rotten turkey taste in my mouth when it was over.
Vanderbes is nothing if not ambitious in this novel that melds a treatment of Big American Social Themes (Vietnam! Feminism! Racism! Gentrification!) with an acutely observed study of a single American suburban family. She pulls it off, though, and with grace and insight and a real sense of her characters and of their vulnerabilities. It's a sad and beautiful novel, and I think also a very accomplished one.
This was a good story with well developed characters, but I can't give it more than three stars because of how the book was put together. Current time only moves forward one day - Thanksgiving (not counting the Epilogue) and only in snipits here and there. Most of the book is spent on flashbacks to develop a strong cast of characters. I didn't mind - and in fact found that it added to the book- the constant switching of point of view between characters because you got to experience the same even ...more
Wow, this book was really written in an interestingly style. Vanderbes' book is about a family, who while completely dysfunctional, gives the appearance of being a cohesive unit. Each character, while they are together as a family, has several secrets of their own. They have become more and more alienated from themselves. The reader may get a little restless early on, while reading the development of each character. However, one should not lose sight as to why Vanderbes goes to such lengths to s ...more
Joy McDonald
The thing that stands out to me after reading this book is how incredibly real all the characters seem, and how close to home they are. We look in the mirror and we never see ourselves as "that bad" but do we really examine our prejudices or how we step on those less fortunate to boost ourselves? How we can't be bothered to know the history of our own country that even the strangers among us know? How we strive to protect our own without considering the costs that others pay?

Worth the read but p
This book had many echoes for me, preceded as it is by a massive literature of family interactions. Perhaps it is this week's cover of Time magazine carrying the picture of Jonathan Franzen, but The Corrections comes to mind, as does Ian McEwan's Saturday. Strangers is an in-depth look at an ordinary family, together on a holiday. The action takes place in one day, Thanksgiving, which has got to be one of the more stressful vacations ever invented for modern man. The holiday comes in the middl ...more
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Jennifer Vanderbes received her B.A. in English Literature from Yale and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her first novel, Easter Island, was named a "best book of 2003" by the Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor and was translated into 16 languages. Her second novel, Strangers at the Feast, was called "a thriller that also raises
large and haunting question
More about Jennifer Vanderbes...

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“The early settlers amazed her--they had pluck, they led lives of sweaty drama. Theirs was a world of corsets and whipping posts and indentured servitude. People worked the land and died in ungainly ways. Modern life, in comparison, seemed a cinch.” 1 likes
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