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Vibrant prose and moments of keen insight lighten an otherwise lackluster debut in this comedy of manners set during the days preceding a wedding. Daphne Van Meter is getting married at her family's New England summerhouse, her advanced pregnancy a blight on the festivities for the older WASP set. Her father, Winn, feeling increasingly irrelevant at work and in the eyes of his family, toys with the idea of adultery, though his real passion is gaining admittance to Waskeke island's exclusive golf club. Daphne's younger sister Livia, unable to recover from her recent abortion and breakup, makes halfhearted attempts to find a rebound interest as the weekend progresses. Also on the scene is Biddy, Winn's solid if unspectacular wife (she falls asleep during sex and only wants Winn to be discreet if he cheats). The characters are either bland or unsympathetic, and with little plot, the book lacks energy. Readers looking for a thoughtful beach read may find moments of distraction in Shipstead's linguistic dexterity, but the glacial pace and dull characters will likely put them to sleep. Agent: Rebecca Gradinger, Fletcher & Company. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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This debut answers the question of whether the rich are different from you and me. The answer is yes, because we wouldn't be caught dead in slacks with whales embroidered on them. Like so many recent movie comedies, the novel takes us into the home-and then the summer home-of a wealthy New England family in the days leading up to a daughter's wedding. We have misbehaving bridesmaids and the bumbling father of the bride, who, in this case, is lusting after one of the bridesmaids. Oh, and the bride is seven months pregnant. But never mind that, her father is beside himself because he can't get a membership in the local country club. The characters are an accumulation of over-the-top WASP-like traits: Harvard educations, social clubs, old money, bigotry, family secrets, and funny nicknames like Winn and Biddy. Shipstead's yeoman prose describes the family's mishaps in cinemagraphic detail. VERDICT A hilarious, if somewhat tasteless, escapist read.-Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
The trope of the wedding weekend, with its contrived conviviality hastened by the joining of disparate but soon-to-be-connected tribes of families and friends, is zestfully yet acerbically parsed in Shipstead's crackerjack first novel. A seriocomic romp in a Meet the Fockers vein, Shipstead's satire follows the presumptive merging of the uber-WASP Van Meter and Duff clans on the occasion of the marriage of seven-months-pregnant Daphne to steadfast Greyson. The ensemble of petulant sisters and stalwart mothers, tipsy aunts and boorish brothers is led in all its hauteur and debauchery by Daphne's father, Winn, a crusty Boston banker more concerned with his unsuccessful bid for membership in the Pequod Club than with his family's happiness on this vital weekend. As he seeks to assuage the affront with an ill-timed dalliance with Daphne's bridesmaid, past wrongs, present slights, and future injustices coalesce in a stew of zany proportions. Yet, for all its madcap quirkiness, Shipstead's adroit escapade artfully delivers a poignant reflection on the enduring if frustrating nature of love, hope, and family.--Haggas, Carol Copyright 2010 Booklist