BKMT READING GUIDES



 
Insightful,
Optimistic,
Interesting

1 review

A Place at the Table: A Novel
by Susan Rebecca White

Published: 2013-06-04
Hardcover : 336 pages
1 member reading this now
25 clubs reading this now
0 members have read this book
Celebrating the healing power of food and the magic of New York City, A Place at the Table follows the lives of three seekers who come together in the understanding that when you embrace the thing that makes you different, you become whole. A Place at the Table tells the story of three ...
No other editions available.
Add to Club Selections
Add to Possible Club Selections
Add to My Personal Queue
Jump to

Introduction

Celebrating the healing power of food and the magic of New York City, A Place at the Table follows the lives of three seekers who come together in the understanding that when you embrace the thing that makes you different, you become whole. A Place at the Table tells the story of three unforgettable characters whose paths converge in a storied Manhattan café: Bobby, a young gay man from Georgia who has been ostracized by his family; Amelia, a wealthy Connecticut woman whose life is upended when a family secret comes to light; and Alice, an African-American chef from North Carolina whose heritage is the basis of a renowned cookbook but whose past is a mystery to those who know her. These characters are exiles—from homeland, from marriage, from family. While they all find companionship and careers through cooking, they hunger for the deeper nourishment of communion. As the narrative sweeps from a freed-slave settlement in 1920s North Carolina to Manhattan during the deadly AIDS epidemic of the 1980s to the well-heeled hamlet of contemporary Old Greenwich, Connecticut, Bobby, Amelia, and Alice are asked to sacrifice everything they ever knew or cared about to find authenticity and fulfillment.

Susan Rebecca White’s first two novels were hailed for the beauty of her writing, her wit, her compassion for her characters, and her sharp insights into their inner lives. A Place at the Table announces the maturity of her talents and reveals her wise and open heart.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

No Excerpt Currently Available

Discussion Questions

1) In Alice’s prologue, language is a symbol of empowerment and oppression for her family, and her relatives both pride themselves in their ability to speak well and manipulate their speech to avoid social conflict. Are there other instances in A Place at the Table where language and speech are politicized in a similar way?
2) Alice, Bobby, and Amelia all escape to New York City from their hometowns in order to start over. Why do you think the author chose New York City as the uniting city? Would any other city work as well as a melting pot for the characters?
3) Café Andres is loosely based on Café Nicholson, a historic Manhattan restaurant known for its clientele. Can you think of any other restaurants that you have either visited or heard of that are similar to Café Andres?
4) Cooking is practically a religious experience for Bobby. After he moves to New York City, it takes perfecting his cooking at Café Andres for him to start hearing God “knocking on [his] heart once again” and feeling a sense of home (p. 158). Why do you think cooking heals spiritual wounds that even the act of moving away from home cannot cure? Does Amelia have a similar experience with cooking?

5. Cooking is practically a religious experience for Bobby. After he moves to New York City, it takes perfecting his cooking at Café Andres for him to start hearing God “knocking on [his] heart once again” and feeling a sense of home (p. 158). Why do you think cooking heals spiritual wounds that even the act of moving away from home cannot cure? Does Amelia have a similar experience with cooking?

6. In order to assimilate Bobby’s recipes into the Café Andres menu, he invents what he calls “stealth southern cuisine,” which is a combination of his Southern cooking background and the café’s French-inspired cuisine. What are some other hybrid food genres? What is your favorite food genre?

7. After Bobby’s “failed” first dinner with Alice and subsequent promotion, he describes the experience as one where “the universe delivered me a beautiful gift wrapped in hideous packaging” (p. 169). Does Bobby receive similar gifts at any other point in the novel? Could Bobby’s friendship with Alice after Sebastian’s death be considered such a gift?

8. Bobby struggles with religion throughout the story and is notably rejected from the Catholic communion. If you were Bobby, how would you have reacted to such a rejection? Do you think it’s possible for Bobby to resolve his issues with faith and religion?

9. In her discussion with Bobby about grief food, Alice says, “Cooking is the one thing that has never failed me” (p. 219). Is this true for other characters in the novel? Are there any infallible people?

10. There are many boundaries in A Place at the Table, from racial segregations to religious and sexual orientation differences. What cultural tension is the most harmful in the novel? Do these tensions still exist in today’s society?

11. Northern and Southern customs and manners are frequently at odds in A Place at the Table; these differences are partly responsible for Bobby’s awkwardness with Sebastian’s parents and Amelia’s struggles with her in-laws. Are these issues inevitable? Have you experienced similar demographic tensions?

12. A Place at the Table is filled with secrets and devastating revelations. What was the most shocking surprise? Did you foresee the final plot twist?

13. Discuss what you think is the book’s main takeaway message. If you could ask the author one question about the book, what would it be?

Suggested by Members

How does the Gus Andres character help the telling of this story?
What is your opinion of Bobby's letters to his Meemaw?
Did you anticipate a coming "twist" at the end of this story?
by Dally (see profile) 04/13/14

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Food served
by nanovsky (see profile) 03/18/15
Have banana pudding made with the pound cake recipe in the book.
Mittie Cumbie Wade\\\'s Sour Cream Pound Cake
by Dally (see profile) 04/13/14
This book provides the recipe for a pound cake that looks delicious but calorie laden. I plan to try and make this for my Book Club and serve the day we discuss the book,

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Not much discussion"by sdelorenzo (see profile) 04/18/19

This story was interesting about several people and how their lives intersect as years go by. Although I enjoyed the story I didn't find much to discuss here.

 
  "interesting"by Carolynr (see profile) 11/07/15

The lives of three characters are interwoven in this story. While most of it centers on Bobby, a young gay man in the 70's, you spend time wondering how the other two women are going to be ... (read more)

 
by Christie Lambert (see profile) 06/17/15

 
by nanovsky (see profile) 03/18/15

 
by tvanallen (see profile) 10/23/14

 
by kimperone (see profile) 10/22/14

 
  "A Place at the Table: A Novel"by Beth4Books (see profile) 08/14/14

 
  "A Place at the Table"by Dally (see profile) 04/13/14

Tale of three very different characters brought together to one place, all with different backgrounds and life problems they are trying to resolve. Insight to some people's struggles with trying to survive... (read more)

Rate this book
MEMBER LOGIN
Remember me
BECOME A MEMBER it's free

Join the leading website for book clubs with over 35,000 clubs and 20,000 reading guides.

SEARCH OUR READING GUIDES Search
Search


FEATURED EVENTS
PAST AUTHOR CHATS
JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get free weekly updates on top club picks, book giveaways, author events and more
Please wait...