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Seating Arrangements

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Seating Arrangements

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A deliciously absorbing social comedy, set on an exclusive island off Cape Cod, that tracks a catastrophic three-day wedding weekend with an irresistible mix of wit and tenderness--a pitch-perfect...
A deliciously absorbing social comedy, set on an exclusive island off Cape Cod, that tracks a catastrophic three-day wedding weekend with an irresistible mix of wit and tenderness--a pitch-perfect...
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Description-
  • A deliciously absorbing social comedy, set on an exclusive island off Cape Cod, that tracks a catastrophic three-day wedding weekend with an irresistible mix of wit and tenderness--a pitch-perfect debut (and a wicked pleasure!) from a hugely talented young writer.

    Winn Van Meter has a Harvard education, membership in all the right clubs, a pedigreed wife, and a tastefully understated summer home on a pristine New England island where the wedding of his eldest daughter, Daphne, is about to take place. The weather is idyllic and so, it would seem, is the gathering. But: the bride is seven months pregnant; the maid of honor, Daphne's younger sister, has just had her heart broken by the son of her father's oldest rival; Aunt Celeste, herself on her fifth marriage, watches with a jaundiced eye as the groom's exceedingly well-dressed brothers stealthily make their way through the bridal party. And the irresistible siren call of Daphne's best friend, the bombshell bridesmaid Agatha, will drive the bride's father finally to combust, taking the family down with him in a raucous explosion of misplaced attention and thwarted desire, not to mention confetti and wedding cake.

Excerpts-
  • From the book

    One

  • The Castle of the Maidens

    By Sunday the wedding would be over, and for that Winn Van Meter was grateful. It was Thursday. He woke early, alone in his Connecticut house, a few late stars still burning above the treetops. His wife and two daughters were already on Waskeke, in the island house, and as he came swimming up out of sleep, he thought of them in their beds there: Biddy keeping to her side, his daughters' hair fanned over their pillows. But first he thought of a different girl (or barely thought of her--­she was a bubble bursting on the surface of a dream) who was also asleep on Waskeke. She would be in one of the brass guest beds up on the third floor, under the eaves; she was one of his daughter's bridesmaids.

    Most mornings, Winn's entries into the waking world were prompt, his torso canting up from the sheets like the mast of a righted sailboat, but on this day he turned off his alarm clock before it could ring and stretched his limbs out to the bed's four corners. The room was silent, purple, and dim. By nature, he disapproved of lying around. Lost time could not be regained nor missed mornings stored up for later use. Each day was a platform for accomplishment. Up with the sun, he had told his daughters when they were children, whipping off their covers with a flourish and exposing them lying curled like shrimp on their mattresses. Now Daphne was a bride (a pregnant bride, no point in pretending otherwise) and Livia, her younger sister, the maid of honor. The girls and their mother were spending the whole week on the island with an ever-­multiplying bunch of bridesmaids and relatives and future in-­laws, but he had decided he could not manage so much time away from work. Which was true enough. A whole week on the matrimonial front lines would be intolerable, and furthermore, he had no wish to confirm that the bank would rumble on without him, his absence scarcely noticed except by the pin-­striped young sharks who had begun circling his desk with growing determination.

    He switched on the lamp. The windows went black, the room yellow. His jaundiced reflection erased the stars and trees, and he felt a twinge of regret at how lamplight obliterated the predawn world, turning it not into day but night. Still, he prided himself on being a practical person, not a poetic soul vulnerable to starlight and sleep fuzz, and he reached for his glasses and swung his feet to the floor. Before going to bed he had laid out his traveling clothes, and when he emerged from the shower, freshly shaven and smelling of bay rum, he dressed with maximum efficiency and trotted downstairs, flipping on more lights as he went. He had packed Biddy's Grand Cherokee the night before, fitting everything together with geometric precision: all the items forgotten and requested by the women, plus bags and boxes of groceries, clothes for himself, and sundry wedding odds and ends. While the coffee brewed, he went outside with the inventory he was keeping on a yellow legal pad and began his final check. He rifled through a row of grocery bags in the backseat and opened the driver's door to check for his phone charger, his road atlas--­even though he could drive the route with his eyes closed--­and a roll of quarters, crossing each off the list in turn. Garment bags and duffels stuffed to fatness made a bulwark in the back, and he had to stand on tiptoe and lean into the narrow pocket of air between them and the roof to confirm the presence in the middle of it all of a glossy white box the size of a child's coffin that held Daphne's wedding dress.

    "Don't forget the dress, Daddy," the answering machine had warned in his daughter's voice the...
About the Author-
  • MAGGIE SHIPSTEAD was born in 1983 and grew up in Orange County, CA. Her short fiction has appeared in Tin House, VQR, Glimmer Train, The Best American Short Stories, and other publications. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the recipient of a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Shipstead's vibrant prose sparks the raw energy driving this satire set on a New England island on the eve of a reunion and wedding. The revelers converge to witness the marriage of Daphne, the daughter of Winn, the protagonist. All manner of tangential relationships, lusty attractions, malignant resentments, salacious misdeeds, and sad ruminations shadow the happy occasion. Arthur Morey champions Winn's introspective nature and bewildered missteps, but he gives women's voices, even quite youthful ingenues, an incongruous trembling that sounds aged. Still, Morey's perceptive performance accords with each character's specific angst, building memorable encounters, hilarious misunderstandings, and a witty romp through class barriers that separate the social elite and those striving to join them. A.W. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine
  • Richard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic

    "Maggie Shipstead is an outrageously gifted writer, and her assured first novel, Seating Arrangements, is by turns hilarious and deeply moving."

  • Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine "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."
  • Justin Torres, author of We the Animals "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."
  • New York Times Book Review "Smart and frothy...Beneath the surface of this summery romp lie animosities, well-paced sexual suspense and a clash between appearances and authenticity...waltzlike."
  • Washington Post "A sophisticated summer romp...Shipstead's weave of wit and observation continually delights. I wouldn't be surprised if someday she trades her Lilly Pulitzer for something from Joseph Pulitzer."
  • O Magazine "Whipsmart and engaging...the best kind of smart beach read."
  • National Geographic Traveler "Dead-on delightful...a champagne-fueled, saltwater-scented comedy of upper-crust New England manners and mores."
  • Daily Mail (UK)
    "Irresistible [and] joyously good."
  • San Francisco Chronicle "Elegant, delightful...Shipstead's sentences simmer and crackle on the page."
  • The Boston Globe "This is one of those rare debut novels that neither forsakes plot for language nor language for plot. It is gratifying on every scale...The novel is teeming with the sort of casual philosophizing that encourages passage-underlining and earnest recommendation."
  • The Maine Edge "Funny and dark and poignant--sometimes all at once. Shisptead is a gifted storyteller whose richly realized characters and sweetly flowing prose coalesce into a tale that is by parts sweet and sharp, humorous and heartbreaking. It's an auspicious debut by an undeniably talented writer."
  • Booklist "Zestful yet acerbic...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."
  • Publishers Weekly "Vibrant prose and moments of keen insight."
  • Entertainment Weekly, A- review
    "Delightful...Shipstead writes with clarity and confidence, nimbly dropping into multiple characters' heads, giving each a distinct voice and point of view but always with great wit and heart. Seating Arrangements brims with sharp observations about love, lust, family, and the real meaning of marital bliss."
  • People, Style Watch "Impressive...Shipstead's characters...feel totally true to life."
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Maggie Shipstead
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