By Jennifer Vanderbes
352 pages; Scribner
Family conflict, fascinating social commentary, and a riveting plot converge in Jennifer Vanderbes' stunning Strangers at the Feast, a thriller that also raises large and haunting questions about the meaning of guilt, innocence, and justice. It's Thanksgiving Day, 2007, and three generations of the Olson family have gathered to celebrate. While the white, middle-class Olsons are busy cooking and silently nursing various long-standing resentments, Kijo and Spider, two black teenagers from the city's housing projects, are breaking into Douglas Olson's lavish home nearby. But this is not a random burglary—a complex personal history with Douglas has driven Kijo into that house. "You can push me and shove me and sweep me out of sight, but one day you come home and realize, I'm still here," Kijo thinks to himself. The ensuing confrontation turns shockingly violent; even more disturbing is the way this novel contorts our preconceptions about "criminals" and "victims" and forces us to ask ourselves: How far would you go to defend your family? How far is too far?