I’ve read some of Shreve’s other works and thought them pretty good. This one was extremely hard for me to read. It was just plain boring.
A group of old highschool friends are meeting at one of their member’s Bed and Breakfast (more like a European resort) for a wedding between two other members of the group. Nora, the owner of the B&B, lost her husband a few years back. He was an acclaimed poet and his death was just fine to Harrison, another member of the group who has carried a torch for Nora his whole life despite having a wife and children at home. He looks forward to this reunion of sorts to reconnect with her.
Other members are Bill and Bridget, who are the two getting married. Bill has left his wife for Bridget after falling in love with her again at a class reunion. Bridget, a single parent, has recently been diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and her uncertain fate is what hurries the nuptials. Jerry, an annoying guy who used to be a good baseball player, has brought his frigid wife and can’t help but boast about how wonderful he is. Agnes is now a teacher at the school (who has had an affair with one of THEIR old teachers) and is writing a short story about the Halifax disaster. This mention is important because half of the book is this short story. There is also Rob, a famous pianist who has come out of the closet officially and brought his boyfriend. Finally there is one other member who is actually not there in presence but in memory. Stephen was a good friend to all and terrific baseball player but died in their senior year at the school by drowning.
Throughout the story there are three parts that are comprised of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of this reunion weekend. Intermixed with all of the characters happenings is Agnes’ story involving a doctor and his desires during the Halifax disaster. All the characters go through turmoil, indecisiveness, and trouble reconciling their feelings about each other and about Stephen.
As far as the characters go in this book, I really couldn’t connect with any of them. The only ones I did really like were Rob and his boyfriend. They at least had some class and dignity but the rest acted like they were back at their precious high school. I realize adults can act very juvenile but these people, to me, were pathetic. Life doesn’t always go the way you want but that is no reason to be stuck in the past. Move on and enjoy some things.
Shreve has a nice writing style although she tends to drill into your head certain details she wants known (like Nora’s B&B being fancy and European-like). After a couple mentions I’d like for such details to be left alone as it just gets repetitive. Shreve usually spins a nice story too but in this one she was so focused on getting the character’s personalities across, that I think she lost focus of some kind of plot. I also think this book may have been her way of dealing with the events of Sept. 11 2001 as there are numerous references to it and it comes up in the character’s discussions quite a bit as well. There is nothing wrong with this, but it only develops characters once again instead of plot.
I think out of the book, the best part of it was the short story. While this also started out slow and boring, it at least was interesting by the end of the book and showed more plot and likeable characters than the actual book.
Not a great book to be sure. Great fans of Shreve may like it but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. It may be a good character study, but not a good story.
A Wedding in December