Gaskell's novel invites readers to monthly dinner parties featuring mouthwatering menus and a group of guests dealing not so well with various relationship issues.
Fran’s husband, Will, would rather work on his action-figure robots in the garage than listen to her concerns. Despite his distraction, Will does seem aware that Fran’s parenting skills are in need of improvement. Fran is terribly disturbed that her surly teenage daughter spends a small fortune on designer sunglasses to keep up appearances with the rich girls she attends private school with, but she then expects Will to repaint the living room, replace a kitchen counter and do major landscaping projects to impress their friends the next time they host the meeting of their monthly dinner club. Clearly, she is unaware that teaching by example trumps controlling by ultimatum. Jaime’s husband, Mark, would rather go to tennis tournaments to watch his snotty teenage daughter from a first marriage than help Jaime care for their two young children. This obsession makes Jaime think that perhaps Mark is having an affair with the tennis coach. While right about the affair, she is wrong about with whom. Audrey, childless and widowed at a young age, would rather get a dog than date the men her friends keep trying to set her up with. Nonetheless, she finds herself feeling hot and bothered in the presence of Will’s sexy single friend, Coop. Only Leland, the old widower from down the block, seems grounded and secure. Physically frail, Leland has a strong spirit, a ready sense of humor and often offers insightful advice on life before he dies. A series of dramatic crises force the dinner club members to confront their own flaws and work on their lives. All the characters at different times compare their lives to various contemporary TV shows and this book, chapter by chapter, could easily be transposed to serial episodes of a TV sitcom.
Gaskell has mastered the art of putting the fun in dysfunctional.