Winn Van Meter has a pretty ideal life — successful career, suitable wife, Harvard degree, exclusive club memberships, summer house on Waskeke Island. Things look good and that’s very important to Winn. Things might look a bit better if his daughter wasn’t hugely pregnant as her wedding approaches, and there’s that nagging annoyance at not yet having been accepted into the Pequod Club. It’s bewildering to be in a houseful of bridesmaids and female relatives on this wedding weekend. It would be better, too, if his younger daughter hadn’t recently caused a drunken scene at a haunt of people in Winn’s circle. Is his daughter’s childhood friend flirting with him or with everyone? Was it a good idea to have drunk so much after having taken the little pill that the wedding planner gave him? Hook ups, family secrets, a bicycle accident, a broken finger, an exploding whale, a fall off of a roof, a rambling fatalistic wedding toast–it seems that no one parties like the upper classes!
In her first book, Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead presents a subtly hilarious and sympathetic portrait of a middle aged man facing, for the first time, the messy and complicated realities of relationships. This is a weekend of reluctant awakenings that bend Winn’s orderly worldview. For this reader, this, like all weekends, ends much too soon. Shipstead is a marvelous writer whose next book I will eagerly anticipate.