Book Review: A Wedding in December
Posted May 30, 2016on:
A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve, Little, Brown and Company, 2005, 325 pp.
As we prepare to move, it has been overwhelmingly busy. My normal brisk pace of reading has suffered, but I needed to get lost in a book just to escape. I also needed to read through some books that I want to read but not pack. This one has been on my shelf for a long time, but never caught my fancy. It was too light, too simple–until now. It was just the breezy read I needed.
The story takes place at an inn in western Massachusetts, where a group of high school friends have gathered for a wedding reunion more than 25 years after graduation. Two of the classmates, Bridget and Bill, had been high school sweethearts who broke up suddenly in college when Bill met (and eventually married) someone else. They have gotten back together, and the classmates are celebrating their wedding. It is their first reunion since graduation, which was marred by the tragic death of Stephen Otis, one of their circle. They carry the guilt and grief of that day into their adulthood.
Nora, Stephen’s girlfriend, owns the inn, having made her life as the wife and helpmeet of a famous poet before his death and her new life on her own as an innkeeper. Harrison, Stephen’s roommate and best friend, was in love with Nora, but is now married with a family of his own. Jerry, the loud one, brings a younger wife and conspicuous displays of wealth. Agnes, the quiet one, has been carrying on a secret affair for years.
The story unfolds the unfinished business between the various classmates, both in their relationships with one another and their guilt over not having been able to save Stephen. It wasn’t a great story, but it was a good one. The writing is lovely and understated. The characters and story will not be seared into my memory, but I enjoyed journeying with them for awhile.
A Wedding in December is a striking portrait of middle age, an era I find myself entering as well. In preparation for our move, I am revisiting old things from high school, notes and letters from my younger self. Through the power of Facebook, I am able to reconnect with some of those old friends and tend to some unfinished business. Much like the characters in the novel, we are able to move beyond our 17 year old versions of ourselves and see one another as fully-formed adults. Again like the story, sometimes this lifts old regrets, eases old tensions and heals old wounds. Other times, it opens new dimensions and reveals that we are forever locked into the choices we made a long time ago.
I was finally ready to appreciate A Wedding in December at the time I read it. Perhaps you will be too.