Hilderbrand’s surprisingly original take on the wedding disaster novel.
A wedding weekend is a time-honored literary pretext for exploring family dysfunction, and Hilderbrand’s version combines gentle irony with astute observation. The Carmichael family has vacationed at their rambling summer abode on Nantucket Island for almost a century. Now, the house will be the site of high-profile divorce attorney Doug Carmichael’s youngest daughter Jenna’s nuptials. "The Notebook," left by Jenna’s mother, Beth, who died of cancer six years ago, has planned the wedding down to the last detail. The weekend, which will include a rehearsal dinner, Saturday ceremony and reception, and Sunday brunch, has drawn the Carmichaels and their entourage into the ideal arena for emotional fireworks. Doug’s 40-year-old daughter, executive recruiter Margot, hopelessly enamored with her father’s rakish older law partner, Edge (one of many nicknames right out of the preppy handbook), regrets her one ethical lapse at her lover's behest, involving a more age-appropriate romantic prospect, Griff. Doug, who married second wife Pauline too soon after Beth’s passing, now contemplates divorce. Pauline, sensing Doug’s withdrawal, hopes that her daughter Rhonda’s service as a bridesmaid will finally earn her genuine entry into the Carmichael clan. Ann, the groom’s mother, a consummate politician, has miscalculated the personal toll of asking statuesque blonde Helen, her husband’s former mistress and mother of his love child, Chance, to the wedding. Crises small and large loom: Edge, though not married, refuses to make his and Margot’s relationship public; a historic tree named Alfie must be pruned to accommodate the wedding tent; Chance suffers a severe allergic reaction to mussels; Doug’s son Nick appears to be involved with a married bridesmaid. The populous cast makes establishing a coherent throughline difficult, and the first 200 pages are mainly prologue. But Hilderbrand’s casually tossed-off zingers, and her gift for eliciting sympathy for even the most insufferable of her characters, keep the pages turning until the disaster unfolds in earnest.
A wedding readers won't be able to resist crashing.