Emma's Table it that is was a far better book than I had thought it would be! A friend begged me to read it and told me that it was told "a sort of Martha Stewart roman à clef."
I am not a Martha Stewart Fan, I know nothing about interior design or auctions. And I certainly don't know the difference between a Nakashima table from an Ethan Allen one.
I grudgingly started the book noting that it was mercifully short. I spent the first half hour hating every single one of the characters. They are at first meeting totally unappealing and deeply flaw characters.
But slowly my attitude began to change. There is no discernable point of change just a gradual understanding and even a little empathy for these fearful and imperfect people.
Yes, Emma is self absorbed, perfectionist, manipulative. She is also insecure, self castigating and deeply wounded. Benjamin Blackwell, her weekend assistant is an obsequious commitment phobe who cares deeply about the kids in his school. Gracie, one of Ben's school kids, is an awkward, fat and sneaky kid who just wants to control something in her life. Casey, Emma's daughter is slightly less sympathetic as a lonely, angry nymphomaniac who just want her Mom to acknowledge her.
Every one of the characters in the book are simultaneously despicable and empathetic. Quite a feat!
The writer, Philip Galanes has done a masterful job of creating these characters out of the most unlikely material. He keeps the simple the plot moving and he doesn't stint on detail. This is a man who knows interior design and people.
This is a great weekend read!
The publisher tell us:
From the moment Emma Sutton walks into the esteemed FitzCoopers auction house, the one-time media darling knows exactly what she wants: an exquisite antique dining table. What she doesn't realize is what she's getting: the chance to set things right.
Fresh from a year-long stretch in prison and the public bloodletting that accompanied her fall, Emma needs a clean slate. She finds her life just as she left it, filled with glittering business successes and bruising personal defeats—rolling television cameras and chauffeured limousines, followed by awkward Sunday dinners at home. She knows, deep down, that she needs a change, though she can't imagine where it might come from or where it will lead.
Enter Benjamin Blackman, a terminally charming social worker who moonlights for Emma on the weekends, and Gracie Santiago, an overweight little girl from Queens, one of Benjamin's most heartbreaking wards. Together with an eclectic supporting cast—including Emma's prodigal ex-husband, a bossy yoga teacher, and a tiny Japanese diplomat—the unlikely trio is whisked into a fleet-footed story of unforeseen circumstance and delicious opportunity, as their solitary searching for better paths leads them all, however improbably, straight to Park Avenue and the dynamic woman at the novel's center.
Sophisticated yet accessible, lighthearted but also telling, Emma's Table is a thoroughly winning and surprisingly affecting tale of second chances.