The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz was, like I had said in my Easter post, just as addicting as Cadbury Mini Eggs. Now for me that means I can’t stop after one, in this case, could not stop one chapter after another. I literally had to pace myself and savor, just like a bowl of Mini Eggs 🙂 Not only am I a huge fan of Brenda’s writing but she is my go to for must reads thanks to her PopSugar articles. She is the gals guide to delicious reads and now with this newest novel she can add herself to the list of Spring 2016 must reads.
The Dinner Party centers around a colorful and zany family celebrating Seder dinner. Sylvia, the matriarch of the family is hosting and stressfully getting ready to host her daughters new boyfriend and his family. The catch is they are the ever famous Jewish Rothschild family. To Sylvia this is the most excited dinner she has hosted and wants it to be completely perfect because, I mean, its the Rothschild’s. With her husband Alan by her side she knows this will be a success even though there are a few things she wishes she could change. For instance her other daughter, Sarah, and her longtime boyfriend Joe. Sylvia not being a fan of Joe, since he is not jewish and a big Italian guy, wishes Sarah would cut her losses and look for a gentlemen involved in their faith. Sarah knows this but is madly in love with Joe and is harboring a secret that she knows will only send her mother over the edge. On top of that Joe is bringing his mother who insist they chat via the iPad with her husband who is in prison. Sylvia’s other daughter Becca, is currently in medical school and dating the infamous Henry Rothschild, who really isn’t contributing much to society which in turn makes Becca question her career and future plans. Then finally, there is Gideon , who is the prodigal son and can’t do wrong until he shows up to the dinner with a special guest and announcement to make. With all of the surprises unfolding, Syliva is not sure how she will make it through the dinner and how her perfect family stayed from her ideal plans in life.
I love this book so much and miss the characters already! I am hoping, maybe, there will be a revisit to them as there is so much more to tell! Janowitz is clearly a master storyteller creating a world where the reader cam immerse themselves into the story. Again, a theme I am finding as a reader (lucky me), that Janowitz creates real characters and relatable themes which makes her that much more lovable. I felt like she was talking to me while reading the book. Her voice is so genuine and thoughtful it truly shines in The Dinner Party! Brenda was kind enough to answer a few questions below. She made me want to call her on the phone and chat all things books and gossip! She’s so fun and I loved her answers 😉
Bliss, Beauty, and Books
by Brenda Janowitz
The Dinner Party
- This novel was based on a Seder dinner with a colorful family. How much of the story was based off your family and experiences?
I may have to plead the fifth on this one!
But seriously, I always say that my books come from everything and they come from nothing. I find inspiration everywhere, and that includes from my family, but there’s never any one character who’s just one person. Everything I write is an amalgam of every experience I’ve ever had.
- The relationship between the siblings and their mother was so complicated yet special. What gave you inspiration in creating these different dynamics?
The first relationship I thought about in creating the book was that of Sylvia and Sarah. And I think that theirs is the central relationship in the book. But as I began to flesh out the book, I thought about each character—which women would have more than one child? Which would have only one child? Was that by choice?
When it came to Sylvia’s family, I imagined a competitive environment. Sylvia didn’t come from much, so she always had to fight. I wanted her to enstill that in her children, which may or may not be a good thing.
- I loved the characters of Joe and Sarah. Did you ever have girlfriends that dated outside of the jewish faith? If so was it a big issue for the families?
Yes, I think intermarriage and dating outside of one’s faith is always something that happens, always something that people are going to think about and talk about. I’ve dated outside my faith, and most of my girlfriends have, too. Some of my closest friends married outside of their faith. I think it can be a struggle to reconcile, but if the bond is strong, a couple will always figure it out in a way that works for their families.
- Family was key in this novel. What was it like to grow up in your house? (sibling/parental relationship, favorite memories?)
I have a very close knit family. I’ve always been close to both of my parents, and my younger brother, too. I grew up in a warm environment, and I have so many fond memories of holiday time both with my family, and with extended family, too. I suppose that’s part of what drew me to a holiday story—this idea of family all gathered together around a shared experience.
- As a writer, where is your favorite place to write?
As a writer, I’d love to write on a beach, with the cool breeze in my hair.
But as a busy working mommy, I’d say that I mostly write wherever and whenever I can. Sometimes that’s at my desk, sometimes it’s on a laptop at a coffee shop, and sometimes it’s dictating full chapters of a book in the nursery school parking lot!
- Name 3 blissful things that you can’t live without?
When I really need to unwind, I take a bubble bath. And nothing is better than reading a book while those bubbles tickle your toes. But really, what I couldn’t live without is my husband and my two sons—they are my bliss; they are my everything.
So, books, bubbles, and boys. (Did that sound dirty?)
- What is the first thing you do when you complete a book?
I wish I could say that it gets easier with each book I write, but five books in, every time I start a new book it feels like a mountain that I just can’t climb. It feels like I’ll never write another book again. But writers write, so I do!
- What was the last book that you read?
I just finished Jane Green’s FALLING for my PopSugar Summer Reads list and it was fabulous. I just adore everything Jane writes.
- While on tour what is a must-have beauty product in your make-up bag?
Lip balm is a must for me. I always have chapped lips. But I’m also obsessed with fake eyelashes, so if you see me on tour with sexy bedroom eyes, you know my secret.
- Are you looking forward to any books that are coming out in 2016?
I’ve been doing book roundups for PopSugar, and it enables me to read all of the fabulous books coming out each season before they hit shelves. My spring picks are here: http://www.popsugar.com/love/Best-2016-Spring-Books-Women-39774358#photo-39774358 And I’ll be getting my summer picks together shortly so stay tuned.
Brenda is the author of five novels, including THE DINNER PARTY (St. Martin’s April 2016). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, the New York Post, Publisher’s Weekly, PopSugar, Mom.me, Hello Giggles, Writer’s Digest Magazine, WritersDigest.com, and xojane. You can find Brenda on her website, www.brendajanowitz.com, and on Facebook and Twitter at @BrendaJanowitz.
Brenda attended Cornell University and Hofstra Law School, where she was a member of the Law Review. Upon graduation from Hofstra, worked for the law firm Kaye Scholer, LLP, and did a federal clerkship with the Honorable Marilyn Dolan Go, United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of New York.
About THE DINNER PARTY:
This Passover Seder is not just any Passover Seder. Yes, there will be a quick service and then a festive meal afterwards, but this night is different from all other nights. This will be the night the Golds of Greenwich meet the Rothschilds of New York City.
The Rothschilds are the stuff of legends. They control banks, own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and even an organic farm somewhere in the Midwest that produces the most popular Romaine lettuce consumed in this country. And now, Sylvia Gold’s daughter is dating one of them.
When Sylvia finds out that her youngest of three is going to bring her new boyfriend to the Seder, she’s giddy. When she finds out that his parents are coming, too, she darn near faints. Making a good impression is all she thinks about. Well, almost. She still has to consider her other daughter, Sarah, who’ll be coming with her less than appropriate beau and his overly dramatic Italian mother. But the drama won’t stop there. Because despite the food and the wine, despite the new linen and the fresh flowers, the holidays are about family. Long forgotten memories come to the surface. Old grievances play out. And Sylvia Gold has to learn how to let her family go.
Praise for THE DINNER PARTY:
“With an impeccable eye for detail, Janowitz skillfully creates scenarios and relationships so authentic that they’re simultaneously hilarious and cringe-worthy. Equally compelling is the cast of emotionally complex, nuanced characters who are lovable even at their most exasperating … [T]his novel delivers poignant universal truths about familial love and conflict in story that will have readers eagerly turning every delicious page. Thoroughly kosher.” – Kirkus Review
“THE DINNER PARTY is everything a reader wants in a novel: guests with a knack for inspired conversation and family drama swirling both above and below the table. A truly entertaining read!” – Elin Hilderbrand, author of THE RUMOR
You think your family is chock full of quirky personalities? Pull up a chair for a holiday meal with the Golds of Greenwich! The vibe is hilarious with a side of heartfelt (but never corny); and the guests are as relatable as they are occasionally appalling. Brenda Janowitz works the room with sensitivity and humor. Thanks to her consummate hostessing, The Dinner Party is a satisfying, delicious meal that sticks with you long after it’s over. –Elisabeth Egan, author of A WINDOW OPENS
“In her funny and smart novel, THE DINNER PARTY, Brenda Janowitz tells a story of transformation and hilarity. With an acute eye for complicated family dynamics, Janowitz takes us inside the hearts and minds of her characters at a holiday dinner. In great bursts of laughter and solemnity, we meet and love family members who are all trying to find their way both in the world and also in their family. As with any good dinner party, it’s a pleasure spending time at Janowitz’s table.” – Patti Callahan Henry, author of THE IDEA OF LOVE
“Don’t miss a seat at this table! Brenda Janowitz’s THE DINNER PARTY charms and delights with a story of the time-honored struggles between parents and grown children, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters as unconditional love bumps up against unmet expectations. Laugh-out-loud funny with the biggest heart, you will fall in love with this family.” – Jamie Brenner, author of THE WEDDING SISTERS
“[The Dinner Party] skewers family distinctions, revealing how each member is vital to the functioning of the whole … readers who enjoy tales of family dynamics will devour this title.” – Library Journal