Fabulous Fiction Firsts #342
In Maggie Shipstead's debut Seating Arrangements, Winn Van Meter (New England blue blood), as he makes his way to his Waskeke island home for his (very pregnant) daughter Daphne's wedding, observes that the weekend is "not a straightforward exercise in familial peacekeeping and obligatory cheer but a treacherous puzzle, full of opportunities for wrong thing to be said and done". He should know!
In the next three days, this pristine family retreat and haven of calm will be overrun by bombshell bridesmaids, sulky siblings, old rivals, new in-laws, uninvited guests, and unforeseen circumstances. All the arrangements, planned with military precision by Winn's wife Biddy, are side-swept by forced proximity, the constant flow of alcohol, salacious misbehavior, intractable lust, and tangled history.
"Hilarious, keenly intelligent", Shipstead's irresistible social satire is "a piercing rumination on desire, on love and its obligations, and on the dangers of leading an inauthentic life".
Maggie Shipstead is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. In a recent interview, she shared that Seating Arrangements "is far from the traditional 'wedding novel' : I think this book is on the darker side of a wedding novel. Characters behave badly and grapple with regrets and doubts. The action…lurks around the periphery of their celebration.' "
Readalike for J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine (2011), a novel about family, fidelity, and social class; and the new release by Mark Haddon The Red House (2012) where estranged siblings and their families come together for one week in an English country house.