Dinner at 10:32 is a literary novel about inner turmoil, tender mercies, and all-too-human wavering.
Set in San Francisco during the 1960s and early 1980s, Mahyar A. Amouzegar’s ruminative novel Dinner at 10:32 is about tangled adult relationships and the white lies that keep them afloat.
Donte and his wife always celebrate October 10, 1981, as the day that altered their lives, but their frustrated granddaughter, on the heels of a breakup, finds their love story too unrealistic. In spare terms, she asks Donte to elaborate, inspiring him to revisit painful events.
In 1980, Donte was prickly and prone to overthinking. He headed out for a dinner party; his ex-wife, Vera, was also on the guest list. Lucid details regarding his preparation include the purchasing of hostess gifts; he covers arriving and pre-dinner drinks. This scene-setting spans several chapters and establishes Donte as both meticulous and anxious. His habit of imbuing everyday moments with gravity combines with the indirect plot to build intrigue about what led his marriage to falter.
In the delay before Donte’s encounter with Vera, minor divisions among the guests are emphasized. Many have known each other since high school. Their taut exchanges are sharpened through memories, and Donte’s attraction to the women complicates his feelings for Vera. When a blindfolded, post-dinner party game pairs people off and asks them to identify each other by touch, Donte becomes mesmerized by another woman, but has no way of knowing the game’s repercussions.
Here, shared histories simmer, no matter how often they’re retold. In the book’s checkered second half, stories are retold as a means of getting at the truth; it’s presumed that the years have “eroded the facts.” Digressive episodes detail Vera’s introduction to the group in the 1960s, as well as Donte’s dates and work life after he parts from her decades later. Secrets about another partygoer are revealed in a dwindling side story; they are a distraction from the main plot.
The book’s divergences underscore how realizations crystallize in sometimes circuitous ways. It’s only through his encounters with others that Donte’s desire to pave over his mistakes with Vera intensifies. Vera’s jealousy is implied throughout, but she is filtered through Donte’s perspective, both underestimated and overlooked. Sensual tension with another woman propels Donte to make amends.
Donte’s granddaughter completes the story and reimagines some of its events. Donte’s life partner is revealed in a roundabout fashion. Wisdom, for Donte, seeps in via painstaking increments. Dinner at 10:32 is a literary novel about inner turmoil, tender mercies, and all-too-human wavering.
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