Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Oakdale Dinner Club by Kim Moritsugu

The Basics:
The Oakdale Dinner Club by Kim Moritsugu
Women's Fiction
Published April 19, 2014

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I picked up this book:

There were so many elements in the blurb that seemed interesting to me - scandal in suburbia, starting over, a dinner club.... Something about it all coming together was really appealing.


After Mary Ann's husband cheats on her, the suburban mom decides to have her own affair. She starts up a neighbourhood dinner club as a cover and invites three men she has earmarked as potential lovers. Along for the ride is her best friend, Alice, who has recently returned with her young daughter to Oakdale, the cozy bedroom community where the two women grew up and briefly shared a telepathic past.

Over good food and wine, new friendships develop, new dreams simmer, Mary Ann pursues her affair candidates, and Alice opens her heart and mind to ways out of her single-working-mother social rut. The stars align on the night the core dinner club members consume an aphrodisiac, go to a local dive bar, hit the dance floor, and rock their worlds.

Appetizing fare for readers who like their fiction sharp and witty with a strong dash of spice, The Oakdale Dinner Club is a suburban comedy of manners that proves it’s never too late to start over.

My thoughts:

This read was a little outside of my normal genres, which was a good thing. There was a lot of discussion about sex, but this wasn't erotica, and while love does factor into this novel, it's not a romance either. The book focuses more on a broader scope of relationships between women and other women, as well as men and women. It looks at how people lean on family and friends, and the toll that leaning can take, all with tongue placed firmly in cheek.

There's a lot happening in the Dinner Club - a cast of characters that sometimes I didn't always keep straight. This book didn't really grab me so I read it over a few sittings instead of racing though to the end. I suspect that accounts for my difficulty in keeping the characters straight until about two-thirds into the book.

That said, many of the characters are actually quite well defined - there's just a lot of them with many of the members of the dinner club having spouses, children and even a babysitter to keep straight. What I found difficult here was that it was hard to feel much sympathy for any of them. With all the infidelity, inability to communicate with their spouses, lack of passion and so forth.

There's also a telepathic component that seemed out of place in this 'suburban comedy of manners'. The paranormal component seemed a little unnecessary and I don't think it contributes to the narrative. The book is, for the most part, a sometimes-meta look at suburban excesses - something that one of the characters recognizes as her motivation for participating in the Dinner Club. She wants to observe these excesses. And they really are on display - the Dinner Club itself is a hotbed of suburban vices. Discussing these and how the book pokes fun would be great material for a book club.

This is a great book if you're a foodie - lots of discussion about recipes, eating practices and cooking. There are a handful of recipes included in the book, and more on the author's website - all of which appear within the story. I did feel a little inspired to up my cooking repertoire. Which wouldn't be hard, because I definitely toss a frozen pizza in the oven at least once a week.

Bottom line:

This was a good book, and it grows on me the more I think about it. I didn't sink into it the way I do with books that I really connect with, but there was so much to like about this one, regardless. I think it'd also make great book club fodder, particularly for suburbanites who like to poke fun at themselves.

4.5 stars
For fans of clever books, books about food, 'book club' books

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