Family Fiction

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Seating Arrangements

Seating Arrangements

320 pages; Vintage
Winn Van Meter has everything an affluent person could hope for: a devoted wife of almost 30 years, two daughters, a privileged life in Connecticut, and a summer home on Waskeke—a fictional island resembling Nantucket. Despite his comforts, Winn suffers from a typical midlife dissatisfaction: "He had almost everything he could think to want, and yet still ambivalence bleached his world to an anemic pallor." Maggie Shipstead's Seating Arrangements is a whip-smart and engaging debut novel, set on Waskeke over the course of three days. Winn's oldest daughter, Daphne, is pregnant and getting married. His youngest daughter is lovelorn and mourning a recent abortion. Strong personalities clash as Winn struggles with his long-burning attraction to one of Daphne's gorgeous and wildly flirtatious bridesmaids, Agatha, as his marriage grows stale. "He could not be sure that he had ever been in love with Biddy, or with anyone for that matter, but Biddy was the woman he had felt the most for." Shipstead observes the absurdity of the upper class in Winn's trivial anxieties; he's incensed that he wasn't invited to join an elite golf club, and he carries on a rivalry with another island couple. This is the best kind of smart beach read: a book that expertly examines social life with heart and wit.
— Michele Filgate

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