Maggie Shipstead is an outrageously gifted writer, and her assured first novel, Seating Arrangements, is by turns hilarious and deeply moving.
A pitch-perfect debut from a master storyteller, Seating Arrangements is a rich and deep work: a smart, consuming novel that manages also to be delightfully funny. A romp of a book, with whales and weddings and wealth, it is, at its heart, a warning against the empty seductions of status and exclusivity.
Seating Arrangements is bursting with perfectly observed characters and unforgettable scenes. This gorgeous, wise, funny, sprawling novel about family, fidelity, and social class, is the best book I've read in ages.
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 well-bred 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 longstanding 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.