I came across this novel by chance. Read it and loved it! I have passed it along to other friends (with uneven success!) It seldom happens that you find a really good novel that almost lacks depressive statements and/or scenes, and I think ‘The feast of love’ is the case. Of course there is death and despair in the novel, but this is conveyed in a beautiful manner (Like one of the final scenes where a character playing football falls, his heart failing. The whole description in the ambulance splendid, and the reason not described in medical terms –heart attack, tachycardia, etc—but of the man having a ‘big heart’).
A difficult topic to tackle, because it can get cheesy or absurdly romantic, Baxter manages to re-imagine A Midsummer Night's Dream, (one of the quotations of the novel) to show an array of personalities in search for their ideal mates in all levels (parents, children, lovers, etc.) The common ground for this is a coffee shop, his owner the narrator and main character.
I recently read ‘Saul and Patsy’, Baxter’s last novel, but I think ‘The feast of love’ is definitely a better novel than the former (it was finalist for a NBA)
When asked about how he came up with the idea for The Feast of Love, Charles Baxter replied, "I began by using my own insomnia, and a nighttime walk I took once down to the vacant lot at the corner of our street. I heard voices coming from someone's house, and I thought of that line from Shakespeare, 'The night air is full of voices,' and I thought: I'll write a novel with voices, a sort of Midsummer Night's Dream in which people are paired off with the wrong partners at first and then are paired off with the right partners later, and everyone will tell their stories to Charlie, who will be this shadowy listener, like the reader."