Frahmann’s (The Devil’s Analyst, 2016, etc.) novel tells the story of several lives intersecting at an elaborate outdoor dinner.
Teddy Massetti, 69, has spent nearly his entire life on his family’s ranch on the central California coast, where he raises beef cattle and abalone. There’s usually few people at the ranch, but that’s about to change with a one-day event called the Long Table Dinner: “a pop-up restaurant for one night only, marked by a long table that would snake through the farm and…a menu specific to the region and that specific purveyor.” The solitary Teddy, who keeps his emotions close to his vest, is highly anxious about the arrival of 200 strangers, even if he did agree to the event last year. For him, it was an excuse to invite his old, semiestranged friends Jessica and Frank back to the ranch. The couple—Teddy’s former babysitter and her boyfriend—were once like surrogate parents to him, but there’s long been tension between them. Other participants include a chef whom Teddy knew as a boy who’s now trying to impress his next-door neighbor and a tech genius to whom Teddy sold half his ranch; this transaction, in turn, destroyed Teddy’s relationship with his sister. There’s also a couple who blame Frank, a general in the first Gulf War, for a tragedy and a young caterer with a mysterious past. Teddy hopes the dinner will be a chance to start anew—but has too much time already been lost? Throughout this novel, Frahmann’s prose is finely attuned to minute details: “There is a string of cursing. Frank figures it has to be the chef, who has no idea how his cursing can skip up the hill with the wind. The sounds break the mood.” Teddy is shown to be a wonderfully complex character who’s alternately infuriating and captivating—which is all the more impressive given how little he actually speaks over the course of the narrative. The novel luxuriates in rarified pleasures—culinary delicacies, expensive wine, and clifftop beauty, purchased at $250 a plate—while also ruminating deeply on the hollowness of life and how easily time can be lost to inaction.
A finely crafted story about late-in-life regrets.