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Publisher's Summary

The week before Thanksgiving 2011, Dustin Smiley left for a yearlong military deployment. Soon after, his son Ford, 11, invited Senator Susan Collins to fill his dad's chair at dinner. On January 3, 2012, Senator Collins came to dinner...and brought brownies.

So began Dinner with the Smileys, nationally syndicated columnist Sarah Smiley's 52-week commitment to fill her husband's place at the family dinner table with interesting people - from schoolteachers to Olympians, professional athletes to famous authors, comedians to politicians - and unique role models for her three sons, even as she knows Dustin's seat cannot truly be "filled" until he is home again for the 53rd dinner.

Why dinner? Because dinnertime is often the loneliest time for people living alone. If houses and apartments were like dollhouses with one side totally exposed, Sarah says, we'd see plenty of people eating alone to the glow of a television.

That was the fate Sarah feared for herself and her children during Dustin's absence. So she opened her home, and she and the kids sent invitations. And they found that a surprising number of people really are available for dinner. You just have to ask.

In a time when popular culture leads us to believe that the family dinner table is dead, Dinner with the Smileys shows people that time spent with family, friends, and neighbors is still very much part of the American lifestyle.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2013 Sarah Smiley (P)2013 Hyperion AudioBooks

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Very enjoyable family memoir

Sarah Smiley's husband is away serving in the military for a year, and she writes about her year alone with her three young boys. She invites a different guest to dinner each week, as a distraction to her husband being away. These include artists, athletes, teachers, and a senator. These people are interesting, but more than anything, this memoir of a year captures the ups and downs of being a parent. As a parent of three grown sons, this brought back so many memories of being a parent of younger children (ages 5-13 here). The personalities of all three of her kids come alive, and she paints the good as well as the bad. The author is clearly a very good mother, yet even for someone like her, parenting is full of challenges and frustration, as well as love and joy. This book was never a riveting, can't-put-down listen, but it quickly became an old friend that I enjoyed returning to each time I listened. It is read by the author, which gives with a very authentic feel.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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What a Wonderful Idea!!

I was immediately drawn to the idea of this book, however I assumed the guests and dinners would be more formal and maybe out of reach for the average family. I was delighted to find it was just the opposite!

This story was down to earth and inspiring. What a wonderful idea for any family--not just a military family with a parent on deployment. The dinners were more than just inviting a local politician or dignitary to a family meal--there was also a visit to a food bank, trying rock climbing for the first time, a trip to the zoo, assisting an elderly neighbor, and a picnic with the whole little league team and their families!

The author, Sarah Smiley, narrated her story and did a very good job--another aspect that kept the story very real. And the oldest child narrated the Epilogue and that was a sweet way to end the book. Overall, "Dinner with the Smileys" was a very enjoyable listen, and a wonderful way to teach children some important life lessons!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Excellent!

If you could sum up Dinner with the Smileys in three words, what would they be?

Good Family Reading

Who was your favorite character and why?

the oldest son as you could see his maturity grow over time.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Good for an author read book, but would be better performed by a professional.The narrative was very flat, but the content saved it for me as I loved the story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Best Military Family story ever!!

love this book. Sarah and the kuds found a perfect way to deal with the deployment

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Very sweet book about a military family.

This was a really sweet story about a military family's decision to invite people to their home for dinner during the father's absence while he served in Africa. The little boys in the story mentioned to their mother how much they missed having their father at the dinner table, and the decision was made to invite someone to dinner every so often to fill the empty chair until their father could return from duty a year later.

This is not a fast-moving adventure novel. It's a candid look at raising children in the absence of a parent who is serving their country. I really enjoyed the stories about the dinner guests, which included a senator, a governor, and a myriad of interesting characters. What I enjoyed the most, however, were the parts that dealt with how the children grew in character and empathy in their everyday lives as a result of the connections they made with the dinner guests.

This would be a great book for anyone who enjoys sweet stories, love stories (there are some really interesting romantic sidelines involved), stories about children, or general stories about growing up. Generally, I avoid any books that involve the description "coming of age," because I find that particular phrase to be attached to descriptions of teenage stupidity. This, however, was a true coming-of-age tale about young boys learning to appreciate their community and a mother learning to nurture her children through a difficult time.

The only drawback is that the author narrated the book, herself, and while that approach does work in some cases, it really didn't work out well, here. She didn't do the worst job I've ever heard, but her voice has a redundant cadence and a sad tone; I listened to the book at 2x and 3x speed to get past those nuicances. She's just not a professional reader. During the last five minutes, however, one of her sons narrates beautifully, and I really wish he had narrated the entire book.

Overall, this book was well worth the credit, and I may even listen to it again, sometime. It's a good book for a lazy weekend day or for unwinding after a long, difficult day at work. I would highly recommend it because the story will have you smiling with the Smileys. If you're picky about your narrators, however, you may want to buy the hardcopy instead.