Writing About Family: Grace’s Table

The kitchen gave a family structure, shape, a space in which to exist. And Grace imagined her cooking as it’s beating heart.”

I am breaking away from my sea theme to cover some other books I have managed to read of late! 

So I come to Grace’s Table – which the lovely wearethecuriousbookclub on Instagram was kind enough to send me. Having battled through some pretty heavy duty reads it was nice to come to something which I thought would be a little lighter, an easier read. Grace’s Table was that, but it was also a lot more. 

This short novel (it’s just over 200 pages) is set on the day of Grace’s 70th birthday. She, with the help of her daughter Susan, is holding a dinner party for 12 people at her home. Grace’s family is, by her own admission, not the kind which frequently sits down to dinner together in this way. As the preparation for the dinner progress and as the family arrive to sit down to their meals Grace reminisces about the past – revealing the history and circumstances which have led to an uncomfortable undercurrent amongst this “normal” family. 

Piper has the lightest of touches with her language. Grace’s narration feels so real that you can almost hear her speaking inside your head – the narration gently sways and soothes; personally I experienced the story as though my own grandmother was telling me a story. The conversations between the family are tense and so realistically done that you almost feel like an intruder during their intimate moments. 

Another triumph is the way that Piper speaks about the complexities of the family’s dynamic. There is a slow build to the revelation of what has led to the fractures in the family’s bond – it simmers and stews like Grace’s cooking (and no doubt delivers the same knockout punch that her food does). I don’t want to say too much because I wouldn’t want to give any spoilers. 

This is a story of family, memory and aging. Most of all it is an ode to food and its power to nurture and sustain, to delight and at times disgust. It is a means of bonding and showing love. Much like a family I suppose. 

Final thoughts: This is a beautiful vignette of family life, the tale of the ups and downs which life serves, the moments and relationships that mould a person. It is about a mother’s love and how as children we rarely take the time to consider our mothers as complex humans like ourselves. 

I wanted to call my mum and my grandmothers when I finished reading this book. Thank them for teaching me to cook, for sharing their love for me in that simple act, for every cup of tea brought when I was sad and for every celebratory meal. 

Read this book. Tell your family you love them and forgive the past, build a future where you all communicate with one another.  

It was through food that mother’s love was given a voice.”

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