A memoir about Nina Totenberg, a jaunt through her captivating life and career, nose for the jugular, and forthrightness about her joys and sorrows. The book opens a window into the history of professional women in the workplace, as well as the trajectory of the Supreme Court over the last 50 years. Above all, Totenberg's book is about the abiding importance of friendship ... As she namedrops her way through the politically well-connected and influential, Totenberg brings the charm and self-deprecation to keep us turning pages ... In Dinners with Ruth, readers will learn about the critical role Ginsburg played in expanding women's rights before and after she was on the bench. Totenberg's look behind Ginsburg's legendary reserve is of special interest. But let's face it, this memoir is a romp through Washington's glitterati — Republican and Democrat alike — penned by a reporter who thrives on it. What's not to enjoy about being in Totenberg's sparkling company for an entire book?
The book, a loosely organized account of her own life, and the role of Ginsburg (among other friends) in it, has a genial, likable tone. Totenberg’s stories are lively but never go on too long; she appears to reflexively turn the reader’s attention to the generosity or small kindnesses of others. She writes, without pretension or self-congratulation, about moments of journalistic triumph of which she has every right to be proud. She is also unfailingly discreet, a quality that the reader must concede reflects well on her as a friend. It serves her less well as the author of a memoir whose most central character, outside of Totenberg herself, is one of the most influential, fascinating and, to some, frustrating women of the last century ... For those seeking insights about any remorse Ginsburg might have felt about not retiring while a Democrat was safely serving as president, Totenberg offers little ... Her final display of friendship in this book entails laying bare just how frail Ginsburg truly was — and how extraordinary she was to persevere and inspire for as long as she did.
Dinners With Ruth is really three excellent books: a memoir of Nina Totenberg's relatively blessed life; an anecdotal account of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's; and, finally, a paean to the bond of friendship, which, like fine wine, gets better with age. It is so engagingly written, so captivating, it's difficult not to feel at least a little jealous of Totenberg, who seems to have it all ... The book is filled with so much love it's almost an antidote to the daily news section. Almost.