Saturday, June 30, 2012
SEATING ARRANGEMENTS by Maggie Shipstead (2012) AA Knopf, 299 pages
Maggie Shipstead's debut novel is one of those books that reads as if it were fully formed in some ethereal stylistic heaven, waiting for the proper storyteller to be the medium to transcribe it.
Over the course of three days that lead up to the marriage of the winsomely pregnant Daphne Van Meter and the affable east coast scion Greyson Duff, you'll meet and get to know intimately father-of-the-bride Winn and his wife Biddy, weekend hosts to a gaggle of nubile bridesmaids and an interloping oft-married sister-in-law on their New England island. Hormones unhinge just about everyone and there is merely a veneer of propriety as several of the characters are swept along into an irresistible swirling vortex of lust. Past and present secrets are revealed, tempers flare and folks are damaged. In the end, by exposing the dangers fraught with living an inauthentic life, each of those flawed and deeply human characters inches their way to redemption.
Maggie Shipstead has emerged out of the social satire tradition of Philip Roth, Richard Ford and Lorrie Moore. I hope the uncompromising, smart and searing SEATING ARRANGEMENTS is the first of many novels to come from this marvellous new voice in contemporary American letters.