A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

A   Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade; mass market December 2007), 325 pages, 2005

Rating: 8/10

Reason for Reading: I enjoyed Shreve’s books The Last Time They Met and Sea Glass.

Synopsis: Bill and Bridget were the ideal high school couple, split up by 25 years and marriages to other people, but brought together now in tough times, as Bridget battles cancer. To celebrate their re-found love, they decide to have their wedding with only old friends from high school attending as guests. Nora, the owner of a beautiful inn, offers to play hostess to the small number of guests, including Harrison, who has lived all of these years burdened by tragedy and haunted by what might have been between him and Nora; and Agnes, a woman hiding a secret completely contrary to the persona she presents to the world. Over the course of a weekend, the old friends will rediscover the binds that tie them together, even as they’re reminded that nothing lasts forever.

Why you should read this book: If you like character-based novels, you’ll love Anita Shreve. By confronting their pasts, all of the narrators (Bridget, Nora, Agnes, and Harrison) are brought to his or her own personal crisis of regrets, what-ifs, and repressed longings. The characters are fully-rounded, each with his or her own distinct personality, each likeable yet full of flaws which try to drag them into trouble and temptation. A Wedding in December is an engrossing read, thanks to Shreve being able to write about ordinary things in an extraordinary way, and also thanks to her ability to find the small truths of life and express them beautifully and simply.

Why you should avoid this book: The narrators in A Wedding in December all share in a terrible tragedy from their days in high school, which isn’t revealed until near the very end of the story and yet ties the whole story together, so if you’re not patient enough to keep reading when you’re unsure of the direction of the story, Shreve might drive you a little crazy with this one. While the story line is interesting, it’s still slow-paced, which isn’t for every reader or every mood.

Opening paragraph:

‘The glaciers are receding,’ she said. Nora peered through the window as if she could see the progress of said glaciers some ten thousand miles north. ‘I read it in the paper. This morning.’

Fabulous quotes:

‘You seem sympathetic to her.’
‘I am,’ she said. ‘Now, I am. But I wasn’t then. Nothing makes a person more selfish than being in love. Carl’s wife retaliated by suing for sole custody of the boys. He hired a good lawyer, and he was sure he’d win, but that’s not how it worked out.’
‘That must have been hard on both of you.’
‘When…when a man leaves his wife and children for another woman, there’s a burden on that woman. She has to be worth the sacrifice.’

‘Children take up all the oxygen, don’t they? Create chaos. I didn’t know Jerry and Harrison had a thing.’
‘I’m not sure they ever did,’ Bill said. ‘This feels new to me. Sometimes Jerry sees a weakness, and he pounces.’
‘He was always a little like that.’
‘More so now, I think,’ Bill said.
Bridget thought about the way age could chisel away at a person so that only the most prominent characteristics remained.

Also recommended: Nora Jane by Ellen Gilchrist; I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb; Nights Below Station Street by David Adams Richards; Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson.

Also by this author: Body Surfing; Light on Snow; All He Ever Wanted; Sea Glass; The Last Time They Met; Fortune’s Rocks; The Pilot’s Wife; The Weight of Water; Resistance; Where or When; Strange Fits of Passion; Eden Close.

Fun tidbit: Some authors that have inspired Shreve include Edith Wharton, Eugene O’Neill, and Nathaniel Hawthorn.

Would I read more by this author? I have copies of The Pilot’s Wife and Fortune’s Rocks waiting for me in my jungle of bookcases.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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