A group of prep-schoolmates reunite 27 years after graduation.
Seven former high-school friends gather at a beautifully restored Vermont inn owned by Nora, one of the group, for the wedding of Bill and Bridget, who spent their teen years locked at the hip and lip. Everyone had expected them to marry right after graduation, but instead they went their separate ways. Now long-divorced, Bridget is undergoing chemo for metastasized breast cancer, and Bill has left his wife to be with her for whatever time Bridget has to live. Harrison, who has harbored an unrequited love for Nora since his charismatic roommate Steve won her heart three decades before, is the first guest to arrive. Next is Agnes, who now teaches at their former alma mater; she is in possession of a secret that would shock them all. Rob, a world-class concert pianist, shows up with his lover, Josh, a choice none would have expected. Finally, Jerry, the financial success of the group, arrives in a chauffeur-driven limo with a lot of attitude and a furious wife. Subplots having to do with the suspicious drowning of Steve during senior year (were Nora and Harrison somehow responsible?), and Nora’s recently deceased abusive husband, the famous poet Carl Laski, are woven in as the schoolmates compare and measure their positions in life. Shreve is at her best when observing the choices her middle-aged, middle-class characters make daily about marriage, children, health care and sex. Her depiction of Bridget and the quotidian inconvenience—along with the terror—of having cancer is notably well done. But all the masterful detail leads up to a predictable climax, like the practiced, unsurprising lovemaking of a long-married couple.
An impressive display of literary talent from Shreve (Light on Snow, 2004, etc.) that deserves to be employed in a riskier undertaking. Readers, however, will not be disappointed.