Dinner With Edward: The Story of an Unexpected Friendship
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books; Reprint edition (June 13, 2017)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
Dinner With Edward isn't the sort of novel I would normally pick up for summer reading. I don't read "food books." But as it was this month's assignment for a book club I belong to, I started reading with few preconceived ideas about it. It didn't take long for me to be glad I did.
From first to last, Dinner With Edward just hums with life and gains affirming energy as it goes along. The premise is simple enough: Edward is a nonagenarian widower grieving over the death of his wife, strongly wanting to follow her to the grave. He's a talented man with his hands, especially with cooking exceptional dinners in his New York apartment.
Isabel is a "middle-aged" reporter who Edward invites to come to weekly dinners at the request of one of Edward's daughters who hopes isabel can keep an eye on her father. Isabel's marriage is disintegrating and these private dinners become highlights of her life, along with the wisdom Edward offers as their friendship deepens. Their backstories are revealed in fragments and chunks as Vincent recounts just how this friendship blossomed in chapters headed by the short menus of one dinner after another. It's quickly obvious the nourishment the two share goes far beyond well-prepared dinners and conversations that are wide-ranging in scope and topics.
Among the lessons Isabel learns is to slow down and appreciate her life, dissecting who she is and facing things she'd rather put aside or ignore. Edward is described as a Henry Higgins figure helping his Eliza Doolittle protegee enhance her feminine aspects which she tends to downplay. Of course, she learns a lot about preparing food and allowing herself to find love again.
One of the many aphorisms sprinkled throughout the memoir is a quote by M. F. K. Fisher, that simple dinners with a friend can "sustain us against the hungers of the world." In other words, Edward's lessons for Isabel should reach out far beyond their relationship and enrich the lives of the book's readers. I often paused to jot down a note or two when a clear, clean insight tripped my trigger. I will have many good things to say about Dinner With Edward when the book club meets and eagerly await the responses of the other members.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on June 25, 2019: