Book: The Dinner (2013, Crown Publishing Group)
Author: Herman Koch
Why you should read: A story that has been likened to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” “The Dinner” revolves around one setting: a diner. But a typical, intimate setting with happy conversation is the last thing on the menu. Early on readers are given the harsh reality that this book isn’t going to be a lighthearted story. When two couples meet up at a diner, there is no happy outing to be found. We are first introduced to Paul and Claire Lohman, and Paul’s brother Serge and his wife, Babette. With nervous tics and weepy faces as far as the eye can see, it’s made clear there are a dozen or more reasons to doubt the sanity of these four very interesting characters.
As it turns out, the lack of sanity runs on both sides of the family. Both couples have 15-year-old sons who are the cause of negative media attention of late. The boys happened upon a sleeping homeless woman, and upon examining her smelly and prone state in an ATM cubicle, decided to get creative with fire and a gas can. But as the only people aware of who exactly was at the heart of the crime, the parents are fraught with questions and indecisions on the matter.
With the meal courses setting the story’s pace, we are driven deep into the heart of this frightful tale where we are left with the knowledge that maybe the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
“The Dinner,” for all its rotten morals, is a window into a twisted family where readers can watch the characters squirm under a magnifying glass of ugliness. And while readers may not have the appetite for more once the book is finished, the first-time journey is full of chilling discoveries that lead up to a well-played, satisfying ending.