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. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
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.
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!
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.