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a bookclique pick by Ari Pinkus

Sometimes, The Dinner List is a wisp of a book—romantic, sentimental, an escape from today’s agitating news cycles. At other points, though, it is wistful and insightful, peeling back layers of deep and troubled relationships.

We first meet Sabrina, the just-turned-30 protagonist, when she shows up late for her birthday dinner at an unnamed New York restaurant where five people are waiting, one not so patiently. The twist: They’re not all her friends. They’re the five people on her dinner list: her best friend, her ex, her father, her college professor, and Audrey Hepburn—all of whom she has unresolved feelings for. Audrey’s presence lends a magical air that permeates the story. Adding to the enchanting quality is the writer’s masterful use of cadence and pacing.

As Sabrina discovers why they’re all gathered in this place, at this time, she participates in a therapy session like no other and advances on her journey of self-understanding. She isn’t the only one. I realized Sabrina was more than the hopeless romantic initially etched and how an unforgiving trait was impeding her growth. I began to wonder whether peace and healing can be found through probing conversation. Is it sufficient? It’s a question that takes on new resonance in these unsettled times. In the case of the novel, Sabrina seems to be on her way to healing, but so much is left unsaid and remains unclear at the end.

The ambiguity propelled me to find a satisfying resolution with meaning. So I made my own list of five dinner companions—which, unlike many, I hadn’t really considered before. Around the table I’d want Moses, Paul, the Buddha, Joan of Arc, and Martin Luther King Jr. I’d want to talk about law, truth, love, purpose, and forgiveness—and apply their wisdom to this time.

 Who’s on your list? What would you talk about?

Ari Pinkus

Ari Pinkus is a writer for the American Communities Project and a former writer and editor at the National Association of Independent Schools in Washington, DC, where she played a pivotal role in producing and editing the content of Independent School magazine. She launched and oversaw the magazine’s blog, Independent Ideas, which frequently covered cutting-edge topics like creativity, digital citizenship, mindfulness, sustainability, and diversity.