Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

New Englan island wedding

Seating Arrangements

Maggie Shipstead’s first novel, SEATING ARRANGEMENTS, leads us right  into summer with a trip to an elite island off the coast of New England. We’re there to celebrate a wedding. What better way to hop into the holidays.

But wait, it’s not all wine and roses. Winn Van Meter( wealthy and entitled ) is the father of the bride. But Winn is not having a good time. He doesn’t really understand women, especially his two daughters,  and his wife. Is he, perhaps, having a midlife crisis?

The women have been on the island at the vacation house for days now. Winn has been  entrusted with the bridal gown and some other important items critical to the wedding. And the story begins.

The characters we meet in this sometimes cheeky novel have upper crust names such as Biddy, Winn, Livia, Greyson, and Teddy.  You expect, at any given moment, to see a young man appear sporting white sailing trousers and a white cable-knit sweater trimmed in navy blue and red. Shipstead has a lengthy cast of characters, and at first I had a hard time keeping tract of them. But since they are all quirky, it sorted itself out.

Daphne is the bride-to-be, seven months pregnant and all. But everyone loves the groom and the families are good with this. Livia , the younger sister, is still reeling from a gruesome break-up with a family friend. Small island. Can they all get along just for one short weekend?

And the bridesmaids, oh, the bridesmaids. Those college girls full of the bloom of youth, and so pert and tight-bodied.  Especially Agatha. Now there is trouble for you!  This one is making herself available to any human male-but mostly is aimed at cornering Winn- who she knows has never strayed in his marriage; a challenge.

Biddy, Winn’s wife, seems hellbent on creating the “perfect” wedding, possibly at Winn’s expense. Is their marriage firm after all these years? Is Biddy happy? She doesn’t seem to know her own husband that well. Is there still love?

This satire is full of peoples’ short-comings. Full of inane activities that may just have you laughing out loud.  But it’s not all fun and games. There are plenty of scenes full of flat -out angst.  Lots of questions can be asked.

At the end of the day Maggie Shipstead has written a fine novel that will ease you into the summer holidays with grace and smarts. And laughter galore.

Barnes & Noble has chosen SEATING ARRANGEMENTS as their recommend  this summer. It’s sure to shoot right to the top of the best seller list.

Maggie Shipstead is a Harvard graduate. She owns a MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. And I can’t wait to see what she’s working on next.


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