Gretchen, Angelica’s sister, is dealing with a failed marriage and her moody teenage daughter Justine. One brother is a callous businessman while the other is struggling with his search for love and a career. Her mother is in a battle of wills with the wedding planner, while her father, a recovering alcoholic, struggles to confront his ex-wife’s lavish new life in the Long Island manor of her dreams. And her grandmother Lenore has decided it’s high time to take charge and set her grandchildren on their proper paths.
Then an impulsive act by Justine puts the entire wedding at risk and brings the simmering family tensions to the boiling point. Before vows are exchanged, this day will change more than one life forever… -- New American Library
For whatever reason, I am always drawn to novels about messed-up families. I don't think it's a case of "misery loves company" because my family is relatively normal as far as families go -- or at least I think we are normal. Rather, I think it's more that I like to read about other people's problems. It makes my life seem so much simpler! So when I read the description for A WEDDING IN GREAT NECK by Yona Zeldis McDonough, I knew it was a book that might appeal to me. Plus, I thought the cover was gorgeous!
A WEDDING IN GREAT NECK definitely fits the bill for being a novel about one very messed up family. Needless to say, the Silversteins are extremely dysfunctional! This book takes place over the course of one day -- the day of Angelica's, the youngest (and most special) daughter's, wedding; and the family members just need to put aside their issues just for a few hours until the ceremony and reception are over. The question is: "Can they do it?"
The odds are stacked against them! Angelica's father is a recovering alcoholic who is basically out of the picture except for the wedding day, and the mother is remarried to a very wealthy man and is jealous of the wedding planner of all things. But that's just the beginning! Gretchen, Angelica's sister, is naturally envious of Angelica, but she's also dealing with the fallout from her husband's affair as well as her two teen daughters -- one of whom is moody to put it mildly. Caleb, one of Angelica's brothers, is struggling to find true happiness both professionally and personally; and Teddy, the other brother, has found a great girl but doesn't look like she's enough to change his insensitive nature. Thank goodness that Lenore, the grandmother and matriarch of the family, is there to try to keep everyone in check.
It's probably because I enjoy books about crazy families that I ended up liking A WEDDING IN GREAT NECK as much as I did. While I did appreciate many things about the funny, yet poignant, story, I didn't love it; and it definitely didn't resonate with me like certain books about dysfunctional families who come together in a time of crisis (namely Jonathan Tropper's THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU.) I also thought that maybe the members of this family had too many issues relating to resentment and jealousy; and as a result, I had a hard time feeling compassion towards them for much of the novel.
Having said that, I did find plenty to like about A WEDDING IN GREAT NECK. First of all, I think the author was successful in writing a book that showcases the uniqueness of families as well as the ties that make families special. Despite all of the insanity that ensued on Angelica's wedding day, by the end of novel, these characters ultimately did come around and put their own needs aside for the greater good of the family. I think many readers will be able relate to the Silverstein family's actions (albeit on a much smaller scale!), and possibly even get some perspective on their own family's issues.
Another fun thing about A WEDDING IN GREAT NECK was that the book was actually very funny. Of course, there were some touching moments and even some pretty heavy themes throughout the book, but there was also lots of humor. Many of the members of this family were outrageous and self-absorbed, and their behavior definitely garnered some laughs from me. Because there was such a mix of poignancy and satire in A WEDDING IN GREAT NECK, I could totally see this novel as a movie!
A WEDDING IN GREAT NECK would make for a very interesting book club discussion. I think we all agree that our relationships with our family members are discussion-worthy, and the Silverstein family's actions will definitely generate some chit chat -- both good and bad! There is a reader's guide with ten questions, as well as an author interview, included in the back of the paperback book; however, I wasn't able to link to it on-line. Some of the themes you might want to discuss include addiction, mental illness, divorce, selfishness, adultery, forgiveness, honesty, and redemption.
Overall, I was entertained by A WEDDING IN GREAT NECK and I do think fans of books about messed-up families will appreciate this novel.
Thanks to the publisher and the Saima Agency for providing a review copy of this novel.
Make sure you stop by tomorrow because Ms. McDonough will be here with a guest post for Book Club Exchange.