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A Wedding in December [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio Cassette]

Anita Shreve , Linda Emond
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 24 2007
Writing with the fluent narrative artistry and the acute grasp of human motivation that distinguish all of her bestselling novels, Anita Shreve tells the compelling story of seven former schoolmates who gather at an inn in the Berkshires to celebrate a wedding. Their reunion becomes the occasion of astonishing revelations, recrimination, and forgiveness as the friends collectively recall a long-ago night that forever marked each of their lives.

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From Publishers Weekly

ABig Chill–like group reunites for a 40-something wedding in this melancholy story of missed opportunities, lingering regrets and imagined alternatives by Shreve (The Last Time They Met). Bill and Bridget were sweethearts at Maine's Kidd Academy who rediscovered one another at their 25th reunion. Bridget was already divorced; Bill left his family; the two have now gathered their Kidd coterie to witness their hasty wedding—Bridget has breast cancer—at widow Nora's western Massachusetts inn. The death of charismatic schoolmate Stephen at a drunken high school party hovers over the event. Stephen's then-roommate, Harrison, now a married literary publisher, remains particularly tormented by it, especially since he had (and still has) romantic feelings for Nora, who was Stephen's then-girlfriend. Abrasive Wall Street businessman Jerry, now-out-of-the-closet pianist Rob, single Agnes (who teaches at Kidd and has a secret of her own) and various children round things out. Tensions build as the group gets snowed in, and someone gets drunk enough to say what everyone's been thinking. Though Shreve's plot, characters and dialogue are predictable (as are her inevitable 9/11 rehashes), she sure-handedly steers everyone through their inward dramas, and the actions they take (and don't) are Hollywood satisfying. (Oct. 10)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–This novel has many of Shreve's hallmarks: simple and elegant prose; characters who are entirely convincing in their portrayals of human fallibility; and a plot buildup with a twist toward the end that packs a wallop. Set in New England several months after 9/11, it is the story of seven former classmates who have not seen one another in 27 years but have come together for the wedding of Bill and Bridget, who dated during high school and then went their separate ways. They have reunited and are getting married in the face of Bridget's advanced breast cancer. Nora, who owns the inn where the wedding will be held, is trying to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. Agnes, Nora's former roommate, has a secret she is desperate to share. Over all of them hangs the specter of Stephen, whose charismatic life and tragic death they seem unable to address head-on. Paralleling the story of these friends is the one in the novel Agnes is writing about the Halifax explosion of 1917, a little-known disaster that resulted in the deaths of almost 2000 citizens. This story-within-a-story not only provides an eye-opening account of a piece of World War I history, but also allows Agnes to address some of her own issues. An understated and graceful exploration of the choices that people make in their day-to-day interactions and their consequences, Wedding is an excellent piece of American literature to add to any library.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Melancholic Sept. 2 2007
Format:Paperback
The reunion of seven former schoolmates who hadn't seen each other in over two decades, on the occasion of a wedding between two of them, starts off some long ago unresolved issues and recriminations, where the concept of missed opportunities dominates. Most of them face these long forgotten issues with a heavy heart, because the passing of time hasn't alleviated them, as most of them previously thought. So the need to resolve, once and for all, what had been pending for so long culminates in a string of stunning revelations which eventually clarify things.

As usual, A. Shreve's writing is somewhat dry but good, very good. The story and all its "ordinary" characters are captivating and absorbing. By reading this book, one cannot but wonder about the "what-ifs" of life.
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4.0 out of 5 stars AN ATTENTION GRABBING NARRATION May 18 2007
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Weddings are supposed to be happy occasions, a time for looking to the future. Such is not the case in Anita Shreve's intricately plotted novel. The nuptial event in her story brings seven old friends together not to look forward but rather to remember the past, reflecting upon the choices they have made in their lives and dwelling upon secrets kept.

Actually, there might have been eight friends gathered had it not been for the drowning death of Stephen Otis during their senior year. It has been some twenty years since that tragic event but it continues to haunt Harrison who was Stephen's roommate at Kidd Academy. Once attracted to Nora, Harrison finds that even after all this time she can still cast a spell on him.

But, who wouldn't be attracted to Nora? She was the class beauty who married an established poet, Carl, a man who left his wife for her. One would think she might have led a charmed life but not so. It turned out that Carl was demanding, self-centered. We hear: ""When a man leaves his wife and children for another woman, there's a burden on that woman. She has to be worth the sacrifice.... No one is worth that kind of sacrifice."

Now a widow Nora has turned her Massachusetts home into an inn where the wedding of Bridget and Bill will take place. The two of them were young lovers but parted ways. Bill recently divorced his wife to be with Bridget who is suffering from cancer.

The group is rounded out with unmarried Agnes who teaches at Kidd Academy, and has long been involved with a married man; a concert pianist, Rob, and his partner; and an unpleasant man accompanied by an almost equally unpleasant wife.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  142 reviews
64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mildly entertaining. Not Shreve's best! Nov. 11 2005
By Jana L. Perskie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When Anita Shreve is good, she's very, very good, and when she's not good, she is boring. A few of my friends have really enjoyed this novel, and I value their opinions, so perhaps I am in the minority when I say I found "A Wedding in December" to be, at best, a ho-hum read filled with tired metaphors. Set in a post 9/11 America with the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts as a backdrop, seven former classmates, all graduates of Maine's preppy Kidd Academy, reunite for a weekend. The occasion is an intimate wedding hosted by Nora, one of the original group members, who owns a quaint bed and breakfast. Bill and Bridget, the honored couple, were sweethearts thirty years before but married other people. Now they hope for a second shot at happiness, (against some serious odds), and want to share this special time with those who knew them when they were in the throes of first love. The group had once been extremely close but, with one or two exceptions, most have not seen each other since high school graduation. There is much unfinished business to be raked-up, adding juice to the plot, including sharp memories of a foreseen tragedy and, consequently, lots of guilt shared by all.

Predictably, there is an abundance of reminiscing, fantasizing and reexamining of lives and goals as the characters discuss past and present and make some interesting discoveries. An emphasis is placed on tragedy - both 9/11 and a devastating disaster which occurred in Halifax Nova Scotia during WWI are brought into play frequently, as is a disaster of another kind, a catastrophic illness. Adultery also plays a big enough role that it might as well have been a character. Ms. Shreve shines no new light on an old theme, however. I did keep feeling that she wanted to make a more profound statement about marital infidelity than the forced denouement she finally delivers. Threads are left hanging and tension is not resolved.

As always the author's characters are likeable but flawed and are limited in their development by multiple storylines. Again, nothing is new other than the mountain setting and post 9/11 world. Oddly, there is a fascinating story within a story developed here, and I found myself much more interested in this narrative than the principal one. I wish we could have gone off on a permanent tangent.

Don't get me wrong, "A Wedding in December" is not a bad novel - it fulfills all the requisites for a mildly entertaining read. However, there are so many excellent books around, in all genres, that I question the need to waste one's valuable time on the mediocre. I am a fan of the author, so I can also say that even hard core Shreve fans may be disappointed.
JANA
61 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shreve Explores theDilemma of "What Might Have Been" Oct. 23 2005
By Antoinette Klein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When graduates of an elite prep school gather for the first time since graduation twenty-seven years previously, old secrets are revealed and passions long buried ignite. Facing the mid-life crises that plague so many, members of the class question their choices in relationships and ponder the proverbial road not taken.

The occasion that brings this once tightly knit group together is the wedding of two of its members. Bridget and Bill were high school sweethearts, but he found another love in college and jilted her. A meeting at their 25th high school reunion led to rekindled romance and he has now left his wife and daughter to be with Bridget and her 15-year old son. The wedding is urgent since Bridget has terminal breast cancer. Determined to make Bridget's last years perfect, Bill arranges a wedding with the help of fellow classmate Nora.

Nora owns a New England inn that was once the home she shared with her famous husband, a renowned poet. Now a widow, Nora is the perfect hostess arranging the details of the wedding and visiting with her former classmates, especially Harrison.

Harrison has entered the publishing world in Toronto, but marriage and two boys he adores have not extinguished the flame that still burns in his heart for Nora. Immediately attracted to her when they were both seventeen, he didn't act quickly enough and she soon became the girlfriend of his best friend Stephen.

It is the absence of Stephen and the mystery surrounding his tragic death just weeks before graduation that hovers over this group and explains why friends once so close have been estranged for more than two decades.

Adding to the mix are: Agnes, the presumed spinster who in reality has been involved in an adulterous and demeaning affair with someone they all know; Jerry, a Wall Street banker with a seemingly cold wife and a personal misfortune; and Rob, a fellow member of the baseball team who has become a world-renowned pianist.

Shreve hits all the right notes in this one as she delves into the insecurities, misgivings, and vulnerabilities of outwardly successful people. An example of her insights I found particularly penetrating was the following from page 151:

"A twenty-two year marriage is a long story, " Nora said. "It's ...it's a continuum with moments of drama, periods of stupefying boredom. Passages of tremendous hope. Passages of resignation. Once can never tell the story of a marriage. There's no narrative that encompasses it. Even a daily diary wouldn't tell you what you wanted to know. Who thought what when. Who had what dreams. At the very least, a marriage is two intersecting stories, one of which we will never know."

To further illuminate her story of the secret wants and fears within the middle-aged heart, Shreve writes a story-with-the-story that parallels the profound tragedy of the main story.

I whole-heartedly recommend this for fans of contemporary fiction.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst First Line Ever April 4 2006
By MJS - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Like a number of authors Anita Shreve writes in the shadow of previous, highly successful novel. It's difficult to read and review this novel to without making comparisons to "The Pilot's Wife." To get the issue out of the way, the comparison is not a good one - A Wedding in December is a weaker novel on every front. The painfully stilted first line illustrates the primary weakness. Human beings simply do not speak the dialogue Shreve cooks up. Whether they're baring their souls or discussing the weather the characters use words and phrases straight out of a writing workshop which tends to grind the narrative to a halt whenever "the glaciers are receding" rears its head.

Next we have the characters. The two leads, Harrison and Nora, are remarkably unlikably characters. It seems that Shreve intended them to be likable but two more self-aborbed, selfish, chilly and judgemental characters would be difficult to imagine. Nora is presented as a paragon of virtue and desirability although the only support given for this are endless descriptions of her interior decorating and catering skills. Instead what we see of Nora lends itself more to a control-freak of the manipulative sort, her "tell me a story" line gave me the creeps by the end. Harrison has been carrying a torch for Nora since high school, a theme Shreve has handled earlier and better in "Where or When," and here goes beyond inexplicable to self-indulgent. Does Harrison really love Nora or is he just in the throes of a mid-life crisis? Shreve wants us to see a love story. I wanted to slap the two of them.

The other character given the largest size of the narrative is Agnes, the single woman who became a teacher at the boarding school the group attended and who is having an affair with the groups' high school English teacher. It's an interesting setup but Shreve strangely devotes pages and pages to Agnes's novel in progress about a surgeon caught up in the Halifax disaster. Considering this novel-within-a-novel takes up space that could be devoted to the secondary characters it's an odd choice. It also brings the narrative to a halt and comes across all-too-nakedly as a clumsy attempt to create a parallel to 9/11.

And 9/11 is the ghost that hangs over this mini-reunion. The wedding in question takes place in December 2001 and the characters talk about the "horror" and where they were when it happened. Unfortunately they do so in the same stilted unreal dialogue that gives us "the glaciers are melting." A credible connection between the characters and the impact of 9/11 is never made so every mention begins to feel more and more exploitive. I would have welcomed less talk about 9/11 and Halifax and more from secondary characters like Bridge and Bill (the bride and groom), Jerry and Rob. Shreve goes for some easy stereotypes with her secondary characters - Jerry is an abrasive Wall Street guy and Rob is out-of-the-closet and the only one in a stable relationship, etc. He's also the only character not guilty of adultery.

Finally, Shreve's writing is often lazy. After telling us that Nora's late husband was 30 years older than her, Shreve follows up with "he was 49". Here most writers with healthy respect for their readers would hit the period key and start the next sentence but Shreve adds "and Nora was 19." Well, duh. She has Carl Laski writing all night and sleeping all morning as his routine then 50 pages later his lifelong routine is to write in the morning. Shreve also has her female characters freaking out that their clothes will "be ruined" if they sweat. Sweaters, suits, doesn't matter. Sweating is bad for your clothes. Which begs the question of whether these people have heard of deoderant and detergent before. Naturally Nora is free from this fear - she's too perfect to sweat. All the characters play out a Yuppie parody of over-interest in material goods. They go to the outlets, they marvel at the furnishings and linens at Nora's inn, they fall into raptures over "the coffee machine in the library." Which serves only to make their ruminations on love, death and 9/11 seem weightless.

All in all, don't waste your time unless you're a fan of tone-deaf but giggle-worthy dialogue.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bittersweet reunion. Oct. 15 2005
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With her new book, "A Wedding in December," Anita Shreve once again demonstrates her skill at exploring the depths of love, heartache, guilt, and despair. This time, Shreve focuses on the wedding of Bridget and Bill, a pair of high school sweethearts who rediscover one another after spending many years apart. Bridget is battling breast cancer, and this wedding is a testament to the couple's fervent hope that Bridget will somehow be able to beat the odds. Coming together to celebrate this occasion are some of the bride and groom's former classmates from their years at Kidd Academy in Maine back in the seventies.

The hostess is Nora, a widow who has converted her home in the Berkshires into a fashionable and successful inn. The wedding guests include Harrison, who has always carried a torch for Nora, Jerry, a Wall Street banker and a bit of a blowhard, Agnes, a single woman with a secret, and Rob, a world-renowned concert pianist. The one person who is missing is Stephen, a talented athlete and popular student who died tragically twenty-seven years ago.

"A Wedding in December" gives us a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of Harrison, Agnes, and Bridget. We learn about Harrison's discontent with his marriage and his longing for Nora that has not abated with the passing years. Agnes thinks with some regret about the clandestine affair that she has been conducting with a married man for the last twenty-six years. Bridget prays that she will be well enough to enjoy life with her new husband and her teenaged son, Matt.

Adding to the narrative's poignancy is the transcript of a story that Agnes has been writing about the survivors of a horrendous and tragic explosion that occurred in Halifax Harbor back in 1917. Agnes's protagonist is a twenty-seven year old eye surgeon named Innes Finch who is in Halifax to complete his medical training. Shortly after he arrives, Innes falls in love with his mentor's daughter, Hazel, who is engaged to another man. When Halifax Harbor suddenly explodes, the death and devastation that ensue alter the course of Finch and Hazel's lives forever. Creating this story is cathartic for Agnes, since she knows in her heart that she cannot control the direction that her own love affair will take.

Shreve's characters ponder a question that is more relevant than ever in this age of terror and uncertainly: Should we selfishly seek to make ourselves happy, even if we hurt others in the process? Or should we try to be content with a "good enough" life that may not be as exciting and fulfilling as we might wish? I have always admired Shreve's thoughtfulness, her vivid word pictures that capture the beauty of nature at its most splendid, and her compassion for the human condition. "A Wedding in December" is a heartfelt and moving novel about the ties that bind us and keep us apart.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can You Rewrite History? Should You Really Try? Jan. 30 2006
By Amy Senk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A group of 40-somethings gather at a friend's New England inn for a wedding, a mid-December affair that is fraught with secrets and stories. Histories, personal, private histories, are made clear and rewritten over the course of the wedding weekend, a weekend that should be joyous but instead is clouded with grief, loss and endings.

One character, the cancer-ridden bride Bridget, would be the center of attention in a typical romance novel. But here, her wedding day is overshadowed by her old friends. Married publisher Harrison still loves high school crush Nora, who owns the inn and is hosting the weekend. Sturdy Agnes spends her time harboring a secret passion while rewriting history in a story in her journal. Businessman Jerry rubs everyone the wrong way, but he clearly is haunted by post 9/11 life in New York City and his own marital woes. And the entire group tiptoes around the ghost of their high school friend who died a horrible, drunken death, just before graduation.

At times this book reminds us of The Big Chill. (Yes this is a wedding, not a funeral, but there is death in the air, and just as many mixed signals and sadness).

Shreve's writing style is clear and precise. There are volumes spoken in the simplest descriptions of a waitress, of melting ice on a branch.

Mostly the story is heartbreaking. The characters are facing their mortality, facing up to events they didn't experience because were too ignorant or cowardly or unlucky. The questions remain, Can you ever alter the course of your life? At what cost? When does your life's "non-stories," or paths not taken, become unbearable?

This is a book that will resonate with middle-aged readers who may be questioning their decisions. For me, a most poignant paragraph came on the last page, when one character was watching the departure of another newlywed couple.

"They had it all before them, he thought. Uncommon beauty. Thrilling risk. The love of children. A sense of rupture. A diagnosis. Relief from pain. Great love. Betrayal. Grand catastrophe."

One wonders if Shreve perhaps wrote that first, and based the rest of her tale on those very words.
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