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Emma's Table: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, July 28, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In this solid ripped-from-the-headlines effort from Galanes (Father's Day), Emma Sutton—once an Oprah-featured interior design queen, now a newly released convicted tax felon—is determined to regain her balance, personally and professionally. Yet she soon resorts to mild fraud at an auction, proving old habits die hard. Confrontations with her ex-husband (who wants to try again) and her adult daughter (a mass of insecurities and vices) lead to guilt and shame. Meanwhile, Emma's weekend assistant, Benjamin Blackman, is not coping very well with his girlfriend or with his day job as an elementary school social worker. There a troubled, overweight third grader, Gracie Santiago, is losing ground fast, despite her mother's efforts. When Emma decides that she has brought her woes upon herself and can get rid of them the same way, the story lines collide neatly. Galanes's thoughtful, placid novel is overpopulated given the scarcity of plot, but the mother-daughter relationships hold it together. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Delicious…. [A] touchingly bittersweet comedy of modern urban existence…. Anyone who can build nail-biting suspense out of a Sunday dinner gone horribly wrong is deserving of praise.” (Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today )
“Sophisticated, witty, and fun, Emma’s Table had me hooked from the first page, and smiling through the very last. Philip Galanes serves up a pitch-perfect comedy of manners with a deft and elegant touch.” (Holly Peterson, author of The Manny )
“Emma’s Table is a charming urban fairy tale about characters who actually learn from their mistakes. Philip Galanes has written a sweet, sly comedy of manners with an oddly familiar and slightly notorious figure at its center.” (Tom Perrotta, author of The Abstinence Teacher and Little Children )
“This summer’s delicious read.” (Vogue )
“Emma’s Table is a marvel: a whip-smart juggling act, as light as meringue, with a perfectly tender heart.” (Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits )
“[Galanes has a] gift for telling detail, rueful but compassionate insight and effortless imagery.” (Kirkus Reviews )
“In other hands, a novel about a fictionalized Martha Stewart would be an occasion for a hatchet job. But Mr. Galanes...has created a heroine not only capable of but also deserving of kindness” (New York Sun )
Top customer reviews
Add a gentle public school social worker Benjamin who is Emma's assistant on weekends, his vegan girlfriend Melora who teaches yoga, a mother with the burden of an obese nine-year-old daughter, a Japanese diplomat in search of a Nakashima table and a pet trainer to the mix, then invite them all to an elegant dinner, and you have a delicious comedy as light as a chocolate mousse and just as sweet.
Mr. Galanes' prose is easy and his humor gentle with practically a metaphor per page, most of which work very well. Cassy has "all whippet-sharp features," the overweight Gracie is "as wide as a penny that had been left on the train tracks" and is a child who loves colors and the "prettiest shade of yellow she can imagine of course is like a stick of butter." Emma, the always perfectionist, in a quite funny scene ruins a dinner because she has to cook too many vegetables with a roast to accommodate the vegan and throws the cooking time off. And in the most gentle and cleverest of scenes, Emma rearranges all of her husband's Bob's furniture when she discovers his hidden apartment.
As we expect in a comedy, in the end we like all these less-than-perfect characters, including Emma.
Author Philip Galanes has written a deeply moving, sad but uplifting novel. The storyline starts off at an auction house where our main character Emma (who strangely reminds me of (....). She is determined to get a special dining room table and will go to any lengths to get it. I thought this was a very interesting opening chapter as it totally threw me off for the rest of the book. I was certain we would be heading in the direction of so much of the standard stuff these days - rich celebrity spends too much money and we get to hear all about it. Well, this book is NOT about this in the least.
Once Emma gets her table, it is hardly mentioned again, but we are introduced, slowly to all the other characters who live in this novel. Benjamin is Emma's assistant, who also happens to be a social worker. Casey is Emma's daughter and she is a mess and her father seems to be a huge part of this reason - then we have Tina and Gracie. Tina is Gracie's mother and suffers from every insecurity known to man and little Gracie is a young girl who is suffering emotionally, mentally and physically from being grossly overweight. ALL of the characters in this book are deeply flawed and are not particularly likeable at times.
Yet, this makes the storyline work. It gives the author and the readers a chance to get to know each of them on a very personal level. No one is one dimensional in this book. For every unkind thought Emma has, she will turn around and severely chastise herself for it, for every horrible act of self-desctruction Casey poses, she will try to redeem herself.
Interestingly enough, all of the characters don't actually end up in the same room at the same time until well into the novel - this disappointed me a little. I love the small exposure we get to the blossoming relationship that could have developed between the sad, lonely, broken and older Emma and the sad,lonely, broken and younger Gracie.
This book is not at all what I expected and I am grateful for that. It does not figure into the standard yarn, which makes this story one that needs telling.
The author tends to use flowery descriptions at times, which I thought was appropriate for this book ot storytelling.
You will thoroughly enjoy this read - even if you probably won't end up liking most of its characters.
This is a good buy.
After reading about 50 pages I turned to the back cover and was surprised to see that the author was male. (Yes I am the kind of reader that picks a book up and starts reading without too much foreplay.) Mr. Galanes writes women as true as (dare I say it) Jane Austen, from the heart.
Perfect book to take on vacation or a long weekend.
Yes the main character Emma reminds one of a certain someone who shall not be named but after a while she becomes herself and not the other one.
One quibble: the cover photo. Dog in book is a poodle which the photo is not. Also Emma has very little to do with said dog. Which makes the cover photo a shameless attempt to get my attention, which it did.