Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Wedding in December (Anita Shreve)

It seemed fitting to read this book since it is December and all.  I recently finished my first Anita Shreve book, so I decided to give this one a try too!

A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve takes place throughout one weekend.  Seven high school friends (and a few of their life partners) are reunited when Bridget and Bill, high school sweethearts, get married after being apart for nearly two decades.  During this weekend, both good and bad memories are brought up.  All the characters seem to leave their reunion a different person than when they arrived. 
"A twenty-two-year marriage is a long story," Nora said. "It's... it's a continuum with moments of drama, periods of stupefying boredom.  passages of tremendous hope.  Passages of resignation.  One can never tell the story of a marriage.  There's no narrative that encompasses it.  Even a daily diary wouldn't tell you what you wanted to know.  Who thought what when.  Who had what dreams.  At the very least, a marriage is two intersecting stories, one of which we will never know."  (A Wedding in December, Anita Shreve, p. 151)
Meet the characters:
Nora owns the inn where the wedding is taking place.  She's a widow in this novel and has a past with Harrison.  Harrison is a publisher who is living in Toronto with his wife and two children.  He's been keeping a secret since his days at Kidd (their school).  Agnes is a writer and a teacher at her former high school, Kidd.  She's always been known as the "single one".  Bridget and Bill are the ones getting married after being apart for two decades.  Rob and Josh are both musicians.  Jerry and Julie have both have done very well for themselves since high school. 
"I just couldn't stand having you all leave after this weekend [...] and not know this about me.  That I have had a life.  It's a different life than most.  A life dispensed in moments.  But they were transcendent moments, never dull, intensely felt, full of joy.  How many of you can say that?  I have had riches.  I have had my share."  (A Wedding in December, Anita Shreve, p. 262)
This book was good.  It was an easy read, and you often wanted to know what would happen next in this busy weekend.  I liked that in different parts of the book, the narration shifted to different characters.  In one chapter, you heard about the wedding from three different points of view.  It gave you the opportunity to know what the characters were thinking about as they were about to reunite with their long lost friends.  There were lots of little secrets that were brought up at the reunion, things that either happened in high school or that had happened since.  In this way, the book wasn't entirely predictable.  I also liked how the reader is left with the ability to decide how some of the story lines will end. 
"If Harrison had learned anything about private lives, it was that anyone looking in from the outside could never know the reality."  (A Wedding in December, Anita Shreve, p. 151)
When reading some books like this, though, I do sometimes think that it's unlikely for these events to happen.  Who goes to a reunion weekend twenty years after high school and has this much drama occur?  Despite this thought, it was a good read. It makes you think of what your reunion with your best high school friends would look like, and it makes you wonder (at my age, anyway) where you will be in twenty years.
"The things that don't happen to us that we'll never know didn't happen to us," Harrison said.
"The nonstories."

"The extra minute to find the briefcase that makes you late to the spot where a tract trailer mauled another car instead of yours."  Harrison took a bite of buttery muffin and thought about his next cholesterol test.
"The woman you didn't meet because she couldn't get a taxi to the party you had to leave early from," Bill added.  "All of life is a series of nonstories if you look at it that way." 
(A Wedding in December, Anita Shreve, p. 207-208)
(If you're expecting something winter-y and Christmas-y, this is not it!  It only takes place in December.)

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