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Dinner with Lisa [Paperback]

R.L. Prendergast
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 1 2011

In the disastrous economic times of the 1930s, Joseph Gaston, a young widower with four children, arrives in the small town of Philibuster seeking security for his family. Instead, he faces barriers everywhere. He does his best despite great adversity, but the strain of feeding and protecting his family whittles away his strength. Finally, destitution forces him to consider giving up his children in order to save them. Enraged by his situation, he attempts one last desperate act—on the night he learns about the mysterious Lisa.

Historically authentic, heart wrenching and humorous, Dinner with Lisa incorporates the crucial issues of the depression: poverty, joblessness, drought and racism. In the midst of love and loyalty, trickery and despair, the ultimate message of the novel is one of hope and the courage to survive even the worst odds.


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Product Description

About the Author

R. L. (Rod) Prendergast was the entrepreneurial kid you saw on your neighbourhood street selling lemonade on a hot summer's day. Recognizing young Rod's preoccupation with money, his mother bribed him to read with an offer of 25 cents per book-and instilled in him a lifelong love of reading. Although he continued down the path of industry-he started and sold his first business before completing his Bachelor of Commerce-he continued to read voraciously. After a number of years working in sales, marketing and management for several companies he spent a year's sabbatical surfing and reading in New Zealand and, free of business pressures, he began to write. Those first words became the backbone of The Impact of a Single Event-which was long listed for the Independent Publishers Book Award for literary fiction, and which became a national bestseller in Canada. Spurred on by the success of his first novel, he took another sabbatical and wrote Dinner with Lisa. He is currently working on his next book.


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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great storytelling Nov. 18 2012
Format:Paperback
Met the author at the local Chapter store and purchased the autographed book from him.
Quite enjoyed reading Dinner with Lisa and the story in the book. It is painted with lots of dark colors but one can't help but feel that there is something more to come. And after all the starvation, poverty, natural disasters, corruption, death, etc., there might just be...
Great read!
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4.0 out of 5 stars a great Canadian novel April 5 2012
By Laura Fabiani TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Joseph Gaston is a widower with four children living during the hard years of the Great Depression. He leaves Ontario to travel westward toward the prairies to join his brother and in search of a better life for his family. One thing after another goes wrong for Joseph who struggles to feed and keep his family together. The local mayor is a selfish, greedy man and he dislikes Joseph who is a moral man standing up for what is right.

Prendergast evokes this desperate era well through not only Joseph's life but that of the townsfolk. However, although it was a time of poverty, racism and despair, this book was not depressing. Joseph lives on hope and hard work and we live it with him. His four children are a big part of the story and, as a mother, I liked reading about their antics at a time when kids found innovative ways to entertain themselves and also help the family survive. We also get a feel for the times when the townsfolk got together at Hoogaboom's, the local convenient store, to listen to the the news and episodes of The Shadow on the radio.

I enjoyed how Prendergast infused small scenes of humour in the story, showing that despite hard times, humour helps to makes life bearable. Joseph was a great character, a father who loved his family and used everything he had, generosity and ingenuity to help his family survive. I was rooting for him throughout the whole story. Beth was a compelling character and I wish her character had been more fleshed out and some of the backstory throughout the novel limited. The plot held twists and turns, and I never knew how it was all going to end for Joseph and his family. The ending held promise.

This was a great Canadian novel, and I learned more about the history of my country. It is a hopeful but sobering story that will stay with me long after I've read it.

Note: This book contains some religious expletives.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous March 25 2012
Format:Paperback
I don't really think that it comes as a surprise to most people that I love Historical Fiction. It's something I say often and I usually jump at the chance to read books in that area. I have been very limited in the time periods of historical fiction that I usually read, so I was very happy to receive the opportunity to read Dinner with Lisa by R.L. Prendergast.

Dinner with Lisa takes place in Canada in the midst of the Great Depression. It's a story about family, love, life and above all hope in the face of overwhelming adversity. The book center's around Joseph, a widowed father of four, and his family as they move to Alberta to make a new life for themselves. As you can imagine, things do not turn out as they had initially planned, but through all of the strife and adversity they manage to stick together.

The book not only delves into Joseph's family life, but it also paints a very vivid portrayal of life in Canada during the 1930's. We witness racial tensions that we really don't think about when it comes to living in Canada. Watching Joseph go through some of the things that he experiences, even at the hands of his own family, is just heartbreaking.

Another high point for Dinner with Lisa is the writing style. R.L. Prendergast manages to be wonderfully descriptive in his narrative. You get a real sense of both what life was like as well as a great feel and understanding of the what the characters are going through. I always say that a good novel makes you feel that you are watching the events unfold right before you, almost like a movie. R.L. Prendergast manages to achieve this with stunning accuracy and detail.

If you haven't added Dinner with Lisa to your reading list, you really need to immediately.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Read! Dec 19 2011
By Louise Jolly TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
My Review:

Joseph Gaston and his four children are seated on two seats of the train rushing through Ontario toward its destination of Philibuster, Alberta. Joseph is a widower and nearly 40-years-old. His children: Clare, 6-months; Nolan 11; Cole 7; and Sarah 4 are the light of his life. Poor little Sarah had succumbed to vomiting due to motion sickness and thus sat alone holding a bowl in her wee lap. Joseph knew that if his wife, Helen, were still alive, she would know how to help Sarah immediately. Joseph and his family are heading west toward a new life filled with hope and prosperity.

The train was grinding to a halt in Philibuster, a small town to stay with Joseph's brother, Henri, and his sister-in-law, Tilda. It's the 1930's and the country is in the grip of the Great Depression but hope abounds for Joseph and his family, or so he thinks. Joseph is filled with optimisim about his new job until he finds out the job no longer exists. What is he going to do now with four children to feed and no income? He begins to worry and the burden and sense of responsibility he feels towards his family is almost crushing, but with the help of his brother Henri, Joseph may be able to survive but not before enduring more problems than one man deserves.

The character development is magnificent in this novel as are the descriptions of the town, its people and surroundings. I felt as though I'd been pulled into the book and could almost walk alongside Joseph seeing the sights and smelling the odours of the town around him. Joseph never lost his sense of belonging and he always had hope. He was forced to fight many battles one which included his sister-in-law wanting to take his children for her own feeling that she could do a much better job of raising them.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Story! March 30 2012
By Megan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I was actually really surprised by how much I enjoyed reading Dinner with Lisa - before starting it I wasn't sure if I would even like it! I knew how hard the Depression was in the U.S., but I never knew that people in other countries were having a depression too. It was very enlightening to read about it.

The story is full of neat facts about things that happened, that are woven into the story seemlessly. I learned several new things about 1930's Canada. During the course of the story there is a "black blizzard" that happens in Philibuster. A black blizzard is a natural phenomenon caused by severe drought along with decades of farming without crop rotation or other techniques to prevent wind erosion.

Joseph and his children were such likeable characters. All the kids had me laughing. The two boys would do such crazy things that I kept hoping they wouldn't get hurt. Joseph's brother, Henri (a.k.a. The Great Henri), was a bit of a confusing character at first - I wasn't sure whether I was going to like him or not. However, not far into the story I couldn't help liking him - his wife on the other hand was a completely different story!

Tilda, Henri's wife, at first I liked her a lot, but throughout the story I began to like her less and less. She has never been able to have children of her own and jumps at the chance to care for Joseph's children while he looks for work or is working. However, soon she begins to devise a plan in which she will be able to adopt Joseph's two daughters. Tilda thinks that if she can make them love her more than Joseph, and fill their heads with enough talk about how girls should be raised by women, that she can somehow convince him to give them up. It was so wrong what she was doing, and it made her seem so selfish. I understand why she wanted them and everything, but to try to break-up their family when Joseph was trying to do everything in his power to keep them together was just so wrong!

Winfield Westmoreland, the mayor of Philibuster, was such a heinous man, and I kept waiting for a time when he would get what was coming to him. Though not much is said about his family, it seems to me that he abused them. Winfield had the chief of police and some other higher-up people under his thumb. Anytime he would get angry, he would have one of them make an appointment for him with a prostitute, insuring he maintain his clean image with the public.

There were so many other interesting characters in the book, such as Tom Wah, Mrs. Nye, Raven Mullens, Copper, Beth, and of course Lisa.

This book had quite a few expletives in it, especially religious ones - which is something I don't like at all in books. I wish the story didn't use Their names in that way!

Many times in the book a word would be spelled differently than I was used to it being spelled, such as two-storey house and mould. I actually never knew that there was a different way to spelling some of these words - so it was great to learn!

Overall, I thought that Dinner with Lisa was a riveting story and one that I found to be very entertaining.

***I received a complimentary copy of this book to review. I was asked to give my honest opinion of the book - which I have done.***
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars YAWN! July 11 2012
By anaavu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Originally posted on my blog: [...]
Before I go into any particulars, I just want to say this is a did-not-finish review. I frankly thought this was overall a boring book and I did not really find a reason to continue after reading about half of the novel.

I enjoyed the historical elements of the book, as my fellow reviewers have said, but overall, I found the plot to be super boring. It was like going through the sluggish pace of a classic without the wonderful insight (more on that later). This might have been because I only read half the book, but I felt apathetic towards Joseph and the other characters in the book. They were thoroughly described but I couldn't get myself to really care about them, which was pretty necessary to get into the book.

Dinner With Lisa is written in the style of a classic. I wanted to love the serious, academic tone of the novel - with the formal diction and the lengthy desriptions, but I really just felt like I was going through the Grapes of Wrath torture again. There are few classics I really do not enjoy and it felt like I was in English class, being forced to read those. I'm not saying it wasn't excellent reading material. If you are looking for literature that is truly educational - the way the classics are - this is probably the book for you.

One thing I did like was the vivid descriptions of the Great Depression time period during which Dinner With Lisa was set. Prendergast is really good at communicating the extreme despair and poverty of the the 1930s and the town and its surroundings was also very well done.

I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dinner With Lisa March 7 2012
By Brenda Casto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I love reading historical fiction and one that is set around the Depression era always grabs my attention. What made this book stand out even more for me was the fact that it was set in Canada during the Depression.
The year is 1933 and the Depression has taken its toll on people, including Joseph Gaston.Joseph,is nearing forty and has alot on his plate. His wife Helen died six months earlier while giving birth to baby Clare, leaving him a single parent to their four children. When his brother Henri who lives in Philibuster, tells him about a job there, he decides it just might be the thing his family needs. So with the promise of a job he and his children head off with the hopes of a fresh start. Will Joseph find what he needs in Philibuster to take care of his family?
As I read this story the historical elements really came to life, making it obvious that the author had really done his research. The descriptions were so rich and vivid it was easy to envision the scenes as they unfolded. One instance that really captured my attention was the automobiles being pulled by horses because the owners couldn't afford gas.Joseph was a character that really garnered my empathy from the beginning, he was such an honorable man that wanted to take care of his family. There were several secondary characters that rounded out the story, and one that really stood out for me was Ms. Nye, someone that really helped Joseph and his
family.
Overall, even though some of the dialect in the story was a bit hard for me to decipher, it did lend an authenticity to the story that really fit. A story that pulled me in and kept me reading to see how things would work out for Joseph and his family. Fans of historical fiction that give a very good glimpse of the Depression era in Canada will certainly want to read this one.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique Historical Fiction June 19 2012
By Ruth A. Hill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Historical fiction is a love of mine, and this book is set in a time period about which I know very little. Sure, I have heard of the Great Depression, and I know basic facts, but I have not read many books set in that era. And this is the first time I have read a book set in Canada during that time period.

I felt that the characters were fairly realistic and well-developed. I had no idea that there were so many immigrants from Italy and China that lived in Canada at this time. And the racial tension is something I honestly never considered. When I think about racism, I always think of blacks and whites. I forget about what other races and ethnic groups have experienced, and I had no idea that it was so bad in Canada.

To read about the plight of this single father with four kids was truly heart-wrenching sometimes. And to read about the horrific events of the Depression made me realize that as bad as things are now for us with this economy, we have virtually nothing to complain about. I think we often forget about how good we have it!

My only criticisms of the manuscript were the language and the fact that sometimes the action lagged a little. I grew tired of the unnecessary profanity--especially from the children. And sometimes the action seemed nonexistent. I appreciated the description, but there were portions of it that read like a classic--which is truly not a bad thing. I was glad that there was no graphic sex in it--a welcome reprieve!

One of the most clever things about the book was the title. I kept wondering what on earth the title had to do with the story. I kept wondering who Lisa was. It took almost till the end of the book for me to figure it out! I always enjoy a little twist to the story at the end of the book when you think the story is just about ready to wrap up!
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Historical Fiction May 3 2012
By J. Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The story is set in Canada during the depression. This is a very real depiction of the men and women of that time. The story is full of different characters and I learned each one's history. If you enjoy novels with historical accuracy built into a good story line you should read this book. There are some very good people in the story and some very bad people. Sometimes you cannot tell who is who.
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