In this new novel from the acclaimed author of SEA GLASS and ALL HE EVER WANTED, Anita Shreve tells the tale of seven former schoolmates who gather for a wedding in the Berkshires. Throughout the nuptial weekend, the characters begin to examine the many choices they have made since they left school and where those decisions have brought them.
Bridget and Bill, long-ago sweethearts when they were at Kidd Academy prep school in Maine, have since rekindled their romance after they met again at their 25th reunion and now they are getting married. But theirs is a bittersweet reunion. Bridget has breast cancer and her prognosis isn't good, so they call on their old friend Nora, who has converted her old rambling house she shared with her late husband --- the famed poet Carl Laski --- into a lovely country inn. They arrange to have the wedding there, and it will also serve as an impromptu reunion for the former classmates of Kidd Academy.
Among the guests are Harrison, the reflective businessman who wonders if he married the right woman after he gets reacquainted with Nora. They are joined by Jerry, the powerful New York banker with the tough-as-nails wife, and Rob, well-known concert pianist, with his lover, Josh. Rounding out the reunion is Agnes, who stayed on at Kidd as a history teacher and is currently working on a novel about a terrible explosion that decimated the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, during World War I; sections of her work in progress are interspersed throughout the modern-day story.
In Shreve's latest tale of love and redemption, all of her characters are on the crux of a new phase in their lives and begin to wonder how the choices they make when they are young impact the rest of their lives, how they know when they've made the right ones, and if it's ever too late to change the course of one's life. Readers will certainly be able to relate these dramatic ebbs and flows to their own lives, which makes this a natural choice for book clubs.
A WEDDING IN DECEMBER doesn't deal directly with the tragic events of September 11, 2001 (although the sections of explosion in Halifax are meant to serve as a parallel), but the repercussions are felt throughout and we see how time truly has been divided into two quadrants: before 9-11 and after. In this novel, as in her others, Shreve maintains a thoughtful balance between reflective storytelling and accessible entertainment.
Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on January 24, 2011
A Wedding in December