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.