Monday, May 21, 2018
Published May 2012 by Blue Door
Read by : Arthur Morey
Source: bought my audiobook copy at my local library book sale
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.
This may be a book set around the wedding of Daphne and Greyson; but, make no mistake about it, this is Winn's story, despite the many journey's down the life stories of the other characters. Which was my problem with the book. I really, really, did not care for Winn.
Here is a middle-aged man who makes no bones about the fact that he really wasn't excited to find himself with two daughters when they were born and nothing in their lives has endeared them to him any more than the day they were born. Boo hoo, so you wanted a boy. I watched my husband fall in love with my daughter the minute she was put into his arms (although, to be fair, he already had two sons) so I had very little patience for a man who would carry that kind of thing with him for all those years. Also? What kind of a father cares more about being in the right club more than he cares about his family? Winn, that's the kind.
One reviewer on Goodreads called this the whitest book she'd read that year. I'm trying to think over what I've read but I'm pretty sure I'd have to say "ditto." Seating Arrangements is a book full of bland, WASPy characters so if Shipstead had chosen another central characters, I'm not sure it would have made much difference. Maybe that was her point? That these kind of people are essentially interchangeable? Even all of those different characters' backstories only seemed to make them seem more stereotypical.
Curiously, the book still held a certain charm. I mean, wedding weekends are crazy things and people drink too much and hookups happy and two families have to try to get along. And Shipstead captures all of it...all before we even get to the wedding. And, I did find the ending mostly satisfying. Plus, Arthur Morey is a pleasure as a reader (although, a male trying to differentiate so many female voices pushes his capabilities; perhaps a female co-reader would have helped).