Thursday, February 19, 2015

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

Driving to his family’s summer home on the secluded island of Waskeke, Winn Van Meter finds many things to worry about.  Like his brokenhearted daughter Livia, who seems all too ready for an inopportune rebellion.  Or his pregnant daughter Daphne’s upcoming wedding and the unwelcome influx of visitors it will bring - in particular, bridesmaid Agatha, who Winn finds himself inconveniently attracted to.  Not to mention an all too apparent snub by the island’s most exclusive club that has (yet again) refused his application - a reality, for Winn, that is most cataclysmic of all.

Seating Arrangements weaves the story of a New England wedding weekend through the eyes of not just the superficial, reputation obsessed Winn, but also through his quietly enduring wife Biddy; acerbic daughter Livia; and bridesmaid Dominque, who watches the Van Meter inner circle with a mixture of nostalgia and disillusion.  

Don’t mistake this book for a “light read.”  Observations are sharp, intelligent, and bitingly funny.  Shipstead creates an interesting cast of characters that are not altogether sympathetic, or even likable (case in point: the dry, elitist Winn).  And yet, their observations and experiences combine to form a rich story, at once satirical and emotional.  I really enjoyed the author’s writing style.  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories involving leisurely, introspective, character driven plots.

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