WE ARE GATHERED by Jamie Weisman

WE ARE GATHERED

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Monologues in the voices of six guests, plus the mother of the bride, at a wedding in Atlanta.

"There is no justice in this world, and you can start with the simple fact that some people look like Elizabeth Gottlieb," announces Carla Leftkowitz at the opening of the first story in Weisman's fiction debut, set at Elizabeth's wedding among the Jewish elite. The beauty of her lifelong friend, whom she now serves as bridesmaid, is particularly enervating because Carla has a port-wine birthmark covering half her left cheek. Author Weisman's background as a dermatologist adds texture to Carla's furious ruminations on physical beauty, as she passes her time imagining her 17 sister bridesmaids with "double chins, saggy breasts, twenty unlosable pounds around the middle, disappointment creased into their foreheads," yet she also dreams of a time "when we evolve to see the beauty in the stroked-out and the misshapen, the one-eyed and the cleft-lipped, the swollen and the stained." In the next story we hear from a character even more bitter than Carla: Elizabeth's grandfather Albert, a powerful, repellent man now mute and confined to a wheelchair after a stroke. Next up...a close family friend, who's attending with her nasty husband and also-wheelchair-bound son, the latter having been Elizabeth's charge when she worked as a teenager at a summer camp for the disabled. There are just a few tendrils of backstory to tie the characters together and virtually no plot development in the present tense of the wedding, so these long forays into the unhappy characters' inner lives have to hold the reader's attention on their own.

Though the wild, wounded rant of the opening story seems promising, by the time we get to the mental patient and the Holocaust survivor who wander (separately) off into the woods, the reader, too, is ready to leave.

Pub Date: June 5th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-328-79329-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2018




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