by Maggie Shipstead
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
This is a book about a wedding. Anyone who has survived the challenge of plotting the seating arrangement for a wedding knows the deft hand required to juggle complicated personalities. Mixing the wrong people with the wrong people could lead to embarrassment or conflict.
At this wedding, the wrong people mix with the wrong people.
It is the début novel of Maggie Shipstead. She has a promising setting (the New England island of Waskeke) and a promising scenario (a wedding), but she doesn’t manage to execute a compelling telling of the story. She doesn’t make the main characters likeable enough—they are all exasperating—and those characters spend the days leading up to the wedding taking actions that we don’t understand (or believe?). Shipstead provides back stories (boy, does she provide back stories) but the stories outline events without providing the psychological insights we need to understand the motivations of the characters. Just when we think we have a character figured out, he or she does something incongruous so understanding slips from our grasp. We don’t learn to like the characters, and we don’t understand why they are doing what they’re doing. That’s never a good recipe for a book.
The characters don’t really seem to fit together either. The bride, Daphne Van Meter, has terrible taste in bridesmaids. We have to wonder why she thought such a disparate bunch of women would be a good idea.
However, this book as received a lot of positive reviews. It could be a good book for the beach this summer. It’s set on an island, some of the action takes place on a beach, and it’s about a summer wedding. Good fit? Maybe.