I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Emma’s Table by Philip Galanes.
Remember Martha Stewart’s little tax problem? How did you feel about Martha when she held her press conferences? Did you feel a little, shameful thrill that someone so perfect, so utterly controlled and put together, couldn’t simply decoupage her way out of trouble? On the one hand, really, others before Martha have done what she did, and worse (see: financial crisis, dateline my 401-K) and didn’t necessarily end up in jail, but on the other hand, one does like to see the mighty fall.
Emma’s Table is a reimaging of what happens after the fall of someone mighty, someone like, but not quite Martha in this case, UES diva, fur-wearing, self-made, self-loathing Emma Sutton. How does someone loosen their grip, just a little bit? If she wants to keep her long suffering husband around, she knows she has to and to her own astonishment, she finds that she sort of does want the old boy at home. But how does one change the habits of a lifetime: the grim perfectionism, the death grip of control? They aren’t only ingrained, they’re engraved. It’s that fascinating intersection between the perfect self and real life, where the story happens.
If you go in expecting another evil boss and poor abused assistant story, you’ve come to the wrong place. Philip Galanes clearly loves Emma, and identifies with her plight putting on that brave, smiling face even if your teeth are clenched and the press is all bad. He peoples this funny, sad, extremely entertaining novel with complicated New Yorkers from Emma and her angry daughter and you really can’t blame the girl for having a chip on her shoulder all the way to Queens and the poor little fat girl on the playground. Gracie, the overweight third grader, is the unforgettable heart of this novel, and the way that the characters come together is a little bit of a fairy tale, complete with enchanted dog trainers, fabulous furniture, and a lot of food. And that’s? A good thing.