Seating Arrangements- A Review

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Seating Arrangements

by Maggie Shipstead

published by Alfred A. Knopf

2012

Summary

Winn Van Meter is heading for his family’s retreat on the pristine New England island of Waskeke. Normally a haven of calm, for the next three days this sanctuary will be overrun by tipsy revelers as Winn prepares for the marriage of his daughter Daphne to the affable young scion Greyson Duff.  Winn’s wife, Biddy, has planned the wedding with military precision, but arrangements are sideswept by a storm of salacious misbehavior and intractable lust: Daphne’s sister, Livia, who has recently had her heart broken by Teddy Fenn, the son of her father’s oldest rival, is an eager target for the seductive wiles of Greyson’s best man; Winn, instead of reveling in his patriarchal duties, is tormented by his long-standing crush on Daphne’s beguiling bridesmaid Agatha; and the bride and groom find themselves presiding over a spectacle of misplaced desire, marital infidelity, and monumental loss of faith in the rituals of American life.

Hilarious, keenly intelligent, and commandingly well written, Shipstead’s deceptively frothy first novel is a piercing rumination on desire, on love and its obligations, and on the dangers of leading an inauthentic life, heralding the debut of an exciting new literary voice. (from Goodreads)

My Review

I put off writing this review for almost a week, because I do not like writing negative reviews.  Usually, if I read a book for pleasure and do not enjoy it, I just chalk it up to a bad choice.  This time, I figured I should at least explain why.

I was really looking forward to reading this book.  I enjoyed Beautiful Day by Elin  Hilderbrand so much, and this looked like it had a similar storyline.  A wealthy family, a daughter’s wedding in affluent New England beach town, told from different perspectives.  A fun read for our plane rides to and from Disney.  Well, this was totally not the fun, breezy story I thought it would be.  Almost every single character in this book is either truly screwed up, or just creepy.  The bride, seven months pregnant, is the most normal character, since we barely get to know her at all.  Her sister, and maid of honor is in SERIOUS need of therapy.  The  wonderful father of the bride spends almost the whole book either fantasizing about one of the bridesmaids, feeling guilty about his fantasies, or actually trying to sleep with said bridesmaid.  And these are the main characters.  I normally do not like to give 2 stars- why bother- but this story really left me slightly ill- and that was before my son came down with the very “magical” stomach bug he brought back from Mickey’s house.   I really don’t recommend this book unless you are a huge fan of train wrecks and staring at accidents on the side of the highway.  Or just want to feel good that you are not one of these people.

Rating

2.5 out of 5 stars

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat

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The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat

by Edward Kelsey Moore

published by Alfred A. Knopf

2013

Summary

Meet Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean. . .

Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is home away from home for this inseparable Plainview, Indiana, trio. Dubbed “the Supremes” by high school pals in the tumultuous 1960s, they weather life’s storms together for the next four decades. Now, during their most challenging year yet, dutiful, proud, and talented Clarice must struggle to keep up appearances as she deals with her husband’s humiliating infidelities. Beautiful, fragile Barbara Jean is rocked by the tragic reverberations of a youthful love affair. And fearless Odette engages in the most terrifying battle of her life while contending with the idea that she has inherited more than her broad frame from her notorious pot-smoking mother, Dora.

Through marriage, children, happiness, and the blues, these strong, funny women gather each Sunday at the same table at Earl’s diner for delicious food, juicy gossip, occasional tears, and uproarious banter.

With wit and love, style and sublime talent, Edward Kelsey Moore brings together four intertwined love stories, three devoted allies, and two sprightly earthbound spirits in a big-hearted debut novel that embraces the lives of people you will never forget.  (from Goodreads)

My Review

I absolutely loved this book!  I had heard a little about it-all good things- and decided I had to read it.  The story begins with three middle age friend-Odette, Clarice, and BarbaraJean, along with their husbands, meeting at Earls for their weekly lunch after church services.  We are brought right into their lives, and taken back in time to the beginnings of their friendship-and marriages.

I blew through this book much too fast-I wanted it to go on much longer!!  The writing was wonderful- thoughtful and funny- and I felt like I really got to know and love these women and their men.I couldn’t pick a favorite part, but one that I really liked was when, at 16 years old, Clarice and Odette go pick up Barbara Jean for a fun Saturday night out, only to find her long absent (abusive) stepfather has returned.  When he tries to tell them the Barbara Jean will be staying with him (all creepy things implied), Clarice gets scared by his menacing and turns to leave, but not Odette-she stood up to him and insisted that Barbara Jean was leaving with them.  When he grabs Barbara Jean’s arm and twists it, Odette has had enough.

“A few feet away from Clarice, Odette stopped, yanked the wig from her head, and tossed it to her.  ….’Clarice, unzip me.’

When Clarice didn’t say or do anything as Odette had told her, she said it again.  ‘Unzip me.  I spent too much time making this dress to get this asshole’s blood all over it.’

She fixed her eyes on Vondell and said ‘ You’re right about me.  I am the girl born in a tree.  And you’re right about my father.  He’s not a cop.  But he was the 1947 welterweight Golden Glove champion.  And from the time I was a little girl my boxer daddy has been teaching me how to deal with dumb-ass men who want me to be afraid.  So let me thank you now, while you are still conscious, for giving me the opportunity to demonstrate some of the special shit my daddy taught me to use on occasions like this.

‘Now Clarice, unzip me so I can take care of this big bag of stink and ignorance, once and for all.’

You will have to read it to find out what happens-

I strongly recommend this book- and would love to hear how you like it!

rating 4.5 out of 5

About the Author

Edward Kelsey Moore is a professional cellist and author from Chicago. During his high school years, and onward into college, Edward Kelsey Moore experimented with writing short stories. As he finished his education he set writing aside and focused on building a career in music. Many years later, as a member of a string quartet, Edward was hired to perform at a reception for the winners of a local writing contest. As he played background music Edward considered: “I could have sent in a story…” It was an inspiring event and within a few weeks Edward Kelsey Moore began writing again. His short fiction has been published in many literary magazines including: Indiana Review, African American Review, and Inkwell. His short story Grandma and the Elusive Fifth Crucifix was selected as an audience favorite from the Stories on Stage series produced by WBEZ in Chicago. It was broadcast locally, and over National Public Radio. The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is Edward Kelsey Moore’s debut novel

http://www.edwardkelseymoore.com/