Saturday Night At The Lakeside Supper Club is EDIWTB fave author J. Ryan Stradal’s third novel. Like its predecessors Kitchens Of The Great Midwest and The Lager Queen of Minnesota, Saturday Night at The Lakeside Supper Club is about food, complicated families, and how to escape – or lean into – one’s legacy. And, of course, it takes place in Stradal’s beloved Minnesota, with the setting and its quirks playing an important role in the book.
Why I picked it up: Stradal is my favorite author! I am a Kitchens fangirl of the highest order.
Mariel and Ned Prager are a young couple with food deeply woven into their histories. Mariel’s grandparents owned a traditional supper club in a small town in northern Minnesota, while Ned’s family owns a chain of successful fast food restaurants across the Midwest. Saturday Night At The Lakeside Supper Club skips back and forth among generations, exploring how the restaurants offer both freedom and limitations to the people who own and run them. Mariel’s grandmother, seeking stability and respect, feels grounded by the Supper Club, while her mother, Florence, longs to escape the confines of the small town it serves. Mariel grapples with her own conflicting feelings about her connection to the Supper Club as she and Ned face struggles in building their family. Ned, meanwhile, thinks he wants to move up the Jorby’s leadership ladder, but discovers that he might not be cut out for it.
Like Stradal’s earlier novels, Saturday Night At The Lakeside Supper Club features memorable characters who, while they may be difficult at times, mean well. Relationships are tested, exposing raw points of conflict, but those are also usually resolved thanks to the patience and inner goodness of the people involved. There is a fair amount of sadness in this book too – watch for child loss/infertility, which Stradal handles incredibly sensitively but without melodrama. I have always found a current of melancholy running through his novels – perhaps that’s part of why I like them – and in Saturday Night At The Lakeside Supper Club that current is reflective of the ups and downs of real life, the ebb and flow of ambition, happiness, disappointment, joy and loss.
I also love Stradal’s writing style – lots of evocative (but never extraneous) detail, a clever sense of humor, modern references (even when the characters are older), and sarcasm with heart. (If that isn’t actually a thing, well, I just made it one.) Ultimately, this story about being true to yourself and learning to love your family, even if they drive you crazy, is an altogether satisfying read.
Saturday Night At The Lakeside Supper Club was the 12th book of 2023 and satisfies the Book By An Author You Love category of the 2023 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.