At times heartwarming, others heartrending, this tender work from Washington is delectable. Lust, hunger, grief, and a longing for belonging squeeze up against the forces that seek to tear us apart, but, what Family Meal serves is a generous familial communion made up of the people we love and those who, despite our flaws, love us back. A restorative novel to be shared, undoubtedly set to bring its readers together.
Washington's delicious writing in Family Meal reveals the shapes and arcs of his characters lives slowly, in a way that you can't help but savor. The stories of these characters are intertwined in indelible ways, even as they sometimes try their best to ignore this fact. Washington explores what "home" even means as each of these characters are afloat in some ways and grounded in others. Ultimately, Washington leaves us with the importance of community that becomes family through time, trust, and yes, meals together. Emotionally devastating, yet deeply gorgeous and nourishing.
Bryan Washington writes characters that are broken, beautiful, full of regret and despair but also overflowing with loving kindness. Family Meal is Washington's most tender book so far.
— Rachel Watkins
From the bestselling, award-winning author of Memorial and Lot, an irresistible, intimate novel about two young men, once best friends, whose lives collide again after a loss.
Cam is living in Los Angeles and falling apart after the love of his life has died. Kai's ghost won't leave Cam alone; his spectral visits wild, tender, and unexpected. When Cam returns to his hometown of Houston, he crashes back into the orbit of his former best friend, TJ, and TJ's family bakery. TJ's not sure how to navigate this changed Cam, impenetrably cool and self-destructing, or their charged estrangement. Can they find a way past all that has been said - and left unsaid - to save each other? Could they find a way back to being okay again, or maybe for the first time?
When secrets and wounds become so insurmountable that they devour us from within, hope and sustenance and friendship can come from the most unlikely source. Spanning Los Angeles, Houston, and Osaka, Family Meal is a story about how the people who know us the longest can hurt us the most, but how they also set the standard for love. With his signature generosity and eye for food, sex, love, and the moments that make us the most human, Bryan Washington returns with a brilliant new novel.
About the Author
Bryan Washington is the author of the story collection Lot and the bestselling novel Memorial. He is also the winner of a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award, a New York Public Library Young Lions Award, an Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, an International Dylan Thomas Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and an O. Henry Prize, and was a finalist for the James Tait Black Prize, the Joyce Carol Oates Prize, a PEN/Robert W. Bingham prize finalist, and a National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. He is a columnist for The New York Times Magazine and his fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and The Best American Short Stories. He divides his time between Houston and Osaka.
Praise for Family Meal
“Family Meal is filled with love—for the sensual pleasure of life, the places that we call home, the beauty of the people around us. This novel will break your heart twice over, with sadness, sure, but more unexpectedly, with joy. It takes a generous writer to show us the world in this way, and Bryan Washington is one of our best.” —Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind
“The way Bryan Washington renders his characters, even in private moments of spectacular, sabotaging abandon, is vivid, unflinching and deeply compassionate. Brimming with food, sex, joy, intimacy, hella specific jokes, and the broken tools that we inherit to save our lives, Family Meal is nourishment. An absolutely gorgeous book.” —Mary H.K. Choi, author of Yolk
"Washington offers a heart-shaking, scorchingly honest study of the damage we do ourselves, the lure of addictive behavior, and the courage it takes to face one’s anguish.... A group portrait that strikingly captures both pain and healing; highly recommended." —Library Journal (STARRED REVIEW)
"Food, family, and sex drive this intimate novel about the difficult search for true connections.... Washington brilliantly commits to his style and preoccupations in a novel about the often winding journey to family." —Kirkus (STARRED REVIEW)
"Washington’s tender, melancholic latest (following Memorial) explores the complicated nature of grief and love.... Washington brings his tough but fragile characters to life with quietly powerful prose." —Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)
"Shifting between points of view, Washington shows us characters at their most vulnerable, using food culture to explore conflict, desire, pleasure and passion. The meals his characters enjoy together through it all—from congee to collards to croissants—remind us of the many ways that love, like food, sustains us." —Bookpage (STARRED REVIEW)
Praise for Memorial
“Wryly funny, gently devastating … Washington’s hand is effortless—smooth dialogue, a love for good food, and his vibrant, sprawling, gradually gentrifying hometown—in inviting you into a nuanced love story that sticks to you like the Texas heat.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Memorial is a wonderful unconventional rom-com [and]. . . a radiant exploration of love’s permutations.” –O, The Oprah Magazine
“A fresh, vibrant love story that interweaves race, queerness, nationality, family, and intimacy with narrative ease.” —Vogue
“Implicit in a book about changing relationships and titled “Memorial” is the question of what is being preserved. The book preserves Houston and Osaka. It preserves the feeling of being young and lost. It preserves the food that gives us comfort and nourishment and purpose.” —The New York Times
“Profoundly sensitive. . . . [and] unspool[s] as spontaneously and clearly as late-night conversation. . . . Memorial is a testament to the permanence of filial connections, a clear-eyed acknowledgment that our relatives don’t always behave nicely, but they’re with us for life.” —The Washington Post
"Memorial isn't just every bit as brilliant as its predecessor. It's somehow even better.... The dialogue in the novel is pitch-perfect, but it's in the spaces between the talking — the awkward silences, the questions left unanswered — that the characters reveal themselves. It's a difficult tactic to pull off, but Washington does it masterfully... Washington is an enormously gifted author, and his writing — spare, unadorned, but beautiful — reads like the work of a writer who's been working for decades, not one who has yet to turn 30. Just like Lot, Memorial is a quietly stunning book, a masterpiece that asks us to reflect on what we owe to the people who enter our lives." —NPR
“Memorial is a true page-turner. I was entranced, picking this book up every chance I got. Bryan Washington is a great writer and I love the story he tells here. Intriguing. Each character stays with me.” —Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red At the Bone and Another Brooklyn
“Memorial dares to insist on the mundane, thoroughly lived life as a site of perennial hope, joy, and abundance. It casts a fresh take on the American family that becomes truer because of its disparate origins, the queerness of its genesis, and the buoyed wonder it finds in surviving grief and loss towards the rare and forgiving ground of difficult, hard-won love. All of this done in sentences clean and clear as cut glass. This book, in what feels like a new vision for the 21st century novel, made me happy.” —Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous