Room For One More: Sarah Smiley Picks 10 Literary Guests to Have Over for Dinner

Room For One More: Sarah Smiley Picks 10 Literary Guests to Have Over for Dinner


In her memoir Dinner with the Smileys, Navy wife and writer Sarah Smiley shares her family’s experiences after a year of filling her husband’s empty seat with new and interesting people. Here, she names the fictional characters she wishes she could have over, too.

(Warning: Minor spoilers ahead)

While my husband was deployed to Africa for a year, our three sons and I filled his empty seat at the dinner table once a week with interesting people. We invited athletes, musicians, artists, politicians, teachers, firemen, and policemen. When people hear about our year, which we called Dinner with the Smileys, they usually ask, “Was there anyone you wanted to invite to dinner but didn’t get a chance to?”

So glad you asked…

Here are ten fictional, literary characters I wish I could have invited to dinner, along with my invitations to them.

  1. 9780375753411


    1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    Dear Monster,
    We are not afraid of you. Sure, dinner will be messy and dark and maybe misunderstood, but we’ve seen the good in you. Rule number one for our dinners: Make no judgment—not about religion, politics, or, well, sewn together body parts. We will not hide or run away.



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    2. The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

    Dear Michael Anton,
    I have to know: When you walked up that hill at the end of the book, were you dying? Wait, wait, don’t tell me. I like to believe you were and that you were thinking of Pauline. I always wanted you to come back to Pauline. Poor, poor Pauline. I’m sorry, I mean—please, come to dinner!



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    3. Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve

    Dear Olympia Biddeford,
    Your scene in the courtroom kept me awake for eight hours the first time I read it. It continues to keep me awake at random times, even today. It is haunting, even more so now that I have children of my own. Our dinners aren’t fancy. Your parents wouldn’t approve. But, well, you like to break the rules, don’t you?



  4. 9781580495967


    4. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

    Dear Tom Sawyer,
    We are painting our house. I’m not joking! Just the other day, I tricked my husband into doing all the work while I sat on the couch. Let’s skip out on our work and go grab dinner.




  5. 9780060741877


    5. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

    Dear Randy Bragg,
    Escape Florida! Come to dinner with the Smileys in Maine. The government is still working (sort of) up here. We have running water. We even have salt. But, how about you leave the radioactive jewelry at home?




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    6. Hawaii by James A. Michener

    Dear King Tamatoa,
    I never got past the creation of the islands. How does it end? Come to dinner, and let’s discuss.




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    7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Dear Mr. Gatsby,
    You’re the early-1900’s Don Draper—aloof and mysterious. You and Nick are a bit like the last two remaining suitors on ABC’s The Bachelor: one passionate, the other steady. We really should want to have dinner with Nick, but I can’t resist asking you instead. Except, how about we come to your place?



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    8. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

    Dear Edward Tulane,
    I know you are a rabbit and easily broken, but if you come to dinner, we will take care of you. I wept as I read your story to my boys, and that was a surprise. I never thought I could feel sorrow over a china rabbit. My boys didn’t think I would either. They threw the book in the basement when we were done, embarrassed by their mother’s tear-stained face. I promise not to let them throw you in the basement, too.


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    9. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

    Dear Minny Jackson,
    You used to work all day in someone else’s kitchen, then you went home to feed your own family. All the while, you were bold and opinionated. And then you dared to share your story—often while sitting at a table, like us. We’d be honored to have you as a guest. But Minny, let us make the dessert, ok?



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    10. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

    Dear Bridget Jones,
    Come to dinner. It’s a costume party. No, really, it is.


    Navy wife and columnist Sarah Smiley is the author of a syndicated newspaper column that is published in cities across the country, the memoir Going Overboard: The Misadventures of a Military Wife and a collection of essays titled I’m Just Saying…. Described as an “Erma Bombeck for the military-wife set” by Publishers Weekly, Sarah is known as a trailblazer for military-spouse books, columns and other publications. Sarah has been a Navy dependent for more than 36 years, first as the daughter of Rear Admiral Lindell Rutherford (USN, Ret.), and now as the wife of Lt. Cmdr. Dustin Smiley, a Navy pilot. She has a B.S. in Education from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and M.A. in Mass Communication from the University of Maine.


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