I recently finished a book called The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle where a woman enters her birthday dinner to find the five people, previously written down by her as the five people she'd most want to have dinner with alive or dead, waiting to spend the evening with her. She makes a lot of discoveries about these people's lives as well as herself and how her perception of life may not be as accurate as she once believed. It's a fascinating idea, that a lot of us have thought about, and I certainly came up with my list right after reading, but today I wanted to add a little twist to the idea. If I could invite five literary characters to have dinner with one night, who would I choose?
As a book lover, this task I have created for myself is rather challenging but the first name sprung immediately to my mind: Nancy Drew. The Nancy Drew series is one of the first series to make me fall in love with books. I've read them all and have re-read many when I'm needing to find a sense of comfort. I also truly believe she would be a great dinner party guest. I love that she is a girl solving crimes with her own wit and strength. She possesses a fearlessness that I wish I had. As someone with anxiety, it was always incredible to me that she was able to jump into the unknown and trust that she would be able to get out of it okay. I like to be around people who possess qualities I admire so that I can learn from them. Plus you'd get to hear her tell all of her crime experiences firsthand which elementary school me would be geeking out about.
I just laughed at the idea of dinner party guest number two, but she would certainly liven things up and lend an air of unpredictability to the evening: Pippi Longstocking. Based on the mixed reaction I got the year I dressed up as her for Halloween, I would say she is slightly less well-known, but she is also a character I have looked up to since elementary school. It may seem odd to say you admire a quirky little girl living with a monkey and a horse as her only companions, but her ability to be totally and completely herself without caring what anyone else thinks is something I aspire to. I can be self-conscious sometimes even when I don’t want to be. I’m a little bit of a people pleaser and I don’t like to rock the boat. Pippi is not afraid of rocking the boat and often prefers to do so. Her individuality is what makes her such a dynamic character and what would make her such a fun dinner guest. I also think having a wide range of ages would make the conversations that much more interesting, which leads me to number three.
Ove. If you haven't read A Man Called Ove or literally any other book by Fredrick Backman, immediately go do that now. Or in a few minutes when you're done reading this blog post. He is one of my favorite current authors because the characters he writes are so well-developed. Ove is no different. At the beginning of the book, we meet him at peak-curmudgeon status and watch him thaw and change as the new family next store disrupts his isolated life. He is a complex man with a long life lived and many stories to tell once he opens up. Something else Fredrick Backman does well is write funny books with a lot of heart. Often his characters struggle with mental health or are going through difficult, and very relatable challenges. Ove is struggling with his mental health throughout the book and I feel like it is something we could connect on. Also, I would love to see him interact with Pippi, because the kids in the house next store to him are who really start to peel back his layers. I would meet all the characters from his novel if I could, but I don't have enough room on this list.
Number four is tricky. I kind of want to go with a bit of a classic here and invite Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. That was one of the books in school I actually enjoyed reading and I would really like to get his take on what is happening in our world today. His actions in the book went against most of the people in this small southern town where racism was the normal mindset. We've witnessed a lot of tragedy and seen with our own eyes the systemic racism that pervades our nation still today, and hearing his thoughts or ideas on what he would be doing would be something I'd be interested to hear. Again, I admire his ability to do what is right, and not just go along with what is expected or passed down to him. I think being around someone like that, even for a night, would force me to look at my own actions and beliefs to be able to have conviction behind my actions in the world. I would want to walk away from this one night knowing more about myself, and I think he would be a good person to nudge me in that direction.
Down to my last guest, and I'm sticking with my theme of characters I look up to in some way. I wish I could invite both of the main women in A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, but if I have to only pick one I think I would invite Miriam. But just know, that if I could take two as a package deal, Laila would be at the table. This book is the first book that ever made me cry. It was assigned as summer reading and is one of the most impactful books I've read. It follows the stories of Miriam and Laila, two women living through the volatile events that have happened in Afghanistan over the past thirty to forty years. Their strength in the face of unimaginable hardship is incredible and their ability to still have the capacity for love is so beautiful after dealing with trauma. I want to talk to people who come from completely different backgrounds than me so that I can learn to see the world from a new perspective. Even after reading the book, I saw things like being able to get an education, and live independently as a woman with a completely new set of eyes. Miriam sacrifices so much of herself for others that being able to give her a night to have others focus on her and her strength for a moment would be really special. Also, hearing what she would say to people like Nancy and Pippi would be incredible to witness. Just being near someone like her would be an honor, so talking to her for a night would be epic.
This was really hard and is also a list that is bound to change throughout my life as I read more, but I feel good about the dinner table I have assembled here. When I read books, these characters start to feel real and alive, so having the ability to actually interact with them would be insane. The fact that I can picture this group of people conversing just emphasizes the power of words. They truly can impact the people who read them and stay alive in their minds years after the reading is done.