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The Best Thing To Hold Onto In Life Is Each Other

In The Dinner List, Rebecca Serle serves up an enchanting exploration of relationships with a side of bittersweet regret. 

The Best Thing To Hold Onto In Life Is Each Other

BOOK REPORT for The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

Cover Story: Kate Spade
BFF Charm: Sassy Gay Friend
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: Straight Up Feels
Bonus Factors: Audrey Hepburn, New York City
Relationship Status: Delectable

Cover Story: Kate Spade

I realize that I’m describing a cover of a book, not a bag, but I would not be surprised to see this artwork, with a jaunty red bag next to it, in the window of a Kate Spade store. It’s classy yet whimsical, refined yet playful, and the cute symbols aren’t just for decor—they very much tie to the story. Plus, that yellow color is, as Audrey Hepburn might say, absolutely divine.

The Deal

“If you could have dinner with five people, living or dead, who would you choose?” You’ve probably answered this question at least once, at a cocktail party or college icebreaker, and maybe you didn’t think much about it, or maybe you, like Sabrina Nielsen, took it fairly seriously. For her, it was a way to reconcile different parts of herself and unpack some emotional baggage—but in her mind, of course, not in a restaurant with the actual people sitting around her. But that’s exactly where Sabrina finds herself on her 30th birthday: at a dinner with her estranged father, Robert; her best friend, Jessica; her college mentor, Professor Conrad; the love of her life, Tobias; and the one and only Audrey Hepburn.

Over the course of a meal, Sabrina wrestles with past decisions and explores the areas of her life impacted by each of her five guests, from her anger towards Robert to her epic romance with Tobias. Everyone weighs in, sharing insights and stories (Audrey’s are the best, obviously), and the wine and conversation flow, as do plenty of emotions.

BFF Charm: Sassy Gay Friend

Sabrina is a sweet soul, the kind who is seeks beauty and believes in destiny and sees the best in people. She’s far from a doormat, but she often gets swept up in the magic of something—typically, Tobias—and forgets about her own life, her own path. While my heart squeezed for her, there were many times during flashback chapters when I found myself asking her, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING. WHAT WHAT WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” She gives up way too much for a boy, and in the process retreats further from her friends, and that textbook move pains me greatly. Fortunately, thanks to this dinner, she does begin to look at her choices, and by the time dessert rolled around, my need for sass was gone, leaving only affection for this complicated, thoughtful girl.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

More than anything else, The Dinner List is an examination of relationships, particularly the romantic kind. We see Tobias and Sabrina’s saga from the small seed of a chance meeting to a gut-wrenching climax, and the in-between is a tangled, gorgeous mess of swoon and sharp edges. With his artistic drive and sheer magnetism, Tobias is dreamy AF, but over the course of their time together, we see the realities of partnership, and while Serle is generous with the kissing, she also ain’t stingy with the heartache.

Talky Talk: Straight Up Feels

This is Rebecca Serle’s first adult novel, and though her writing feels a bit more elegant than her YA work, all of her signature talents that I’ve come to love through her previous books are still on display—the dialogue is pitch-perfect and charming; the characters are vibrant with life; and the emotions resonate with authenticity. I felt everything so keenly, it was as if I was an extra guest at the table, cracking up over Professor Conrad’s flirtation with Audrey and tearing up over Jessica’s angst and Tobias’ regret. (For real, y’all, do NOT read this on a plane unless you’re cool with strangers seeing you with puffy red eyes. I speak from experience.) Thanks to the masterful way Serle builds the momentum, you’re likely to breeze through the story, but be warned, this book is like a French 75—it may go down easy but it still packs quite a punch.

Bonus Factor: Audrey Hepburn

Not gonna lie, at first I thought the Audrey thing was just a (smart) gimmick to get people to pick up this novel. But it’s so, so much more than that. Audrey Hepburn is a character in this book, as real as Sabrina, and it’s a delight to spend time with her—not the icon, not the movie star, just her. Obviously, her interactions are fictional, but some of the stories she shares are definitely based on truth, and Serle captures her mannerisms, her attitude and most importantly, her sparkle.

Bonus Factor: New York City

Tobias and Sabrina fall in love against the backdrop of New York, and the book is filled with wonderful details of the city. Whether you’ve experienced these places for yourself or not, you’ll definitely be enchanted by the picture Serle paints of this thriving, colorful place.

Relationship Status: Delectable

This book delivered course after course that hit my palette just right, with words that I savored like a glass of fine whiskey. Whether you have a craving for an unforgettable love story or an appetite for the bittersweet journey of a twenty-something, The Dinner List will leave your heart full and very, very satisfied.

Literary Matchmaking:

  

• When it comes to tortured romance, this ain't Rebecca Serle's first rodeo. Give your heart a workout with When You Were Mine.

• Dive into another post-college love story with The Royal We

• Itching to explore more of NYC? RSVP to The Summer Invitation.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author, but got neither cocktails nor money in exchange for this review. The Dinner List is available now.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).