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Reviewed by Robert A. Groves for Readers' Favorite
A restaurant by the name of the Sunset Coastal Grill adjacent to St. Joe Bay in the town of Port St. Joe, Florida is the setting of Linda Heavner Gerald’s Table 36. Oh, the adventures Gerald takes the reader on by sharing the tales of lives seated through the years at the Grill’s table 36. The table, located on the establishment’s porch, welcomed both locals and tourists alike since the doors opened in 2002. The stories are told from the perspective of waiters and waitresses who have served customers of the Grill. Through their eyes, a young family finds a way to make the last summer with their daughter unforgettable; a lonely senior citizen and recent widow join forces to meet life-changing needs; a young man desperate for love finds his one; a woman finds courage to escape from years of torment; and a young girl with all of life’s luxuries finds a supportive friend to help her cope with a terrible family secret. There are also light-hearted stories of grandparents and grandchildren and stories of holiday celebrations. However, the intersection of lives is tragically impacted in October 2018 by a category five storm which will forever change the Grill, table 36, and the residents of Port St. Joe.
The central theme of Gerald’s Table 36 can be conveyed in seven words – where there is life, there is hope. Hope for the perfect vacation, hope for the present, hope for the future, hope for recovery, and hope for healing. Table 36 provides a rare microscopic view of a community’s life before and after a devastating tragedy. The author’s ingenuity for sequencing the stories gives the reader a vivid picture of a kind-hearted, loving community that takes care of its own prior to the tragedy. The resulting storm loss is even more impactful because of these stories. Linda Heavner Gerald provides us with an extraordinary literary work. I laughed, I cried, and I cared as I turned page after page – you will, too.