A distinguished editor and writer’s tale of the people and events surrounding her first wedding.
When McCulloch, a former managing editor of the Paris Review and editorial director of Tin House Books, married for the first time, the ceremony took place at her parents’ beachfront home in the East Hamptons. The house, writes the author, “had a shabby grandeur to it that time forgot.” This run-down elegance also characterized the Hamptons, which in 1983 was “known mainly for artists and potato fields and the fishermen who made their living trawling off Montauk Point.” A few days before the wedding, McCulloch’s father suffered a massive stroke, transforming a celebration into a crisis that revealed the cracked foundations undergirding the family. Not long before the ceremony, her affected and controlling mother, Patricia, had forced her lifelong alcoholic father, John, to stop drinking. Cessation sent John's body into withdrawal shock and caused his stroke. Yet despite the many problems they had with each other, both lived their lives as though their marriage and family were as happy as they were perfect. The author's own choice of husband disappointed Patricia, who had expected McCulloch to marry a “Social Register” man rather than Dean, “the boy next door.” Shortly after the wedding and before McCulloch and her husband could even open wedding presents, John died. At first, Dean’s wholesomely all-American family seemed to offer a haven to the author. But three years after the wedding, Dean’s father told the family at a Christmastime gathering that he had fallen in love with another woman and eventually left to go live with her. Meanwhile, the author and her husband grew increasingly apart. By the fifth year of their marriage, “all we had in common was the desire not to hurt one another’s feelings.” McCulloch provides an honest and sensitive portrayal of family dysfunction as well as an evocation of a dying world of old-money wealth and privilege.
A poignantly intimate memoir.