Maggie Shipstead's stunning debut novel, Seating Arrangements is an irresistible social satire that is also an unforgettable meditation on the persistence of hope, the yearning for connection, and the promise of enduring love.
Winn Van Meter is heading for his family's retreat on the pristine New England island of Waskeke. Normally a haven of calm, for the next three days this sanctuary will be overrun by tipsy revelers as Winn prepares for the marriage of his daughter Daphne to the affable young scion Greyson Duff. Winn's wife, Biddy, has planned the wedding with military precision, but arrangements are sideswept by a storm of salacious misbehavior and intractable lust: Daphne's sister, Livia, who has recently had her heart broken by Teddy Fenn, the son of her father's oldest rival, is an eager target for the seductive wiles of Greyson's best man; Winn, instead of reveling in his patriarchal duties, is tormented by his long-standing crush on Daphne's beguiling bridesmaid Agatha; and the bride and groom find themselves presiding over a spectacle of misplaced desire, marital infidelity, and monumental loss of faith in the rituals of American life.
Hilarious, keenly intelligent, and commandingly well written, Shipstead's deceptively frothy first novel is a piercing rumination on desire, love and its obligations, and the dangers of leading an inauthentic life, heralding the debut of an exciting new literary voice.
"Maggie Shipstead is an outrageously gifted writer, and her assured first novel, Seating Arrangements, is by turns hilarious and deeply moving." (Richard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic )
"Seating Arrangements is bursting with perfectly observed characters and unforgettable scenes. This gorgeous, wise, funny, sprawling novel about family, fidelity, and social class, is the best book I've read in ages." (Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine)
"A pitch-perfect debut from a master storyteller, Seating Arrangements is a rich and deep work: a smart, consuming novel that manages also to be delightfully funny. A romp of a book, with whales and weddings and wealth, it is, at its heart, a warning against the empty seductions of status and exclusivity." (Justin Torres, author of We the Animals)
We've sent an email with your order details. Order ID #:
To access this title, visit your library in the app or on the desktop website.
A Great Authorial Debut
Sticking it out. I needed to get into the book a little bit...because I did, indeed, reach that point where, much as I disliked some of the protagonists, I had to find out what happened next.
I have to admit that I hated this book when I first began to listen. The characters were uniformly unpleasant. I stuck it out because a) the NY Times had given it such a glowing review, and b) I trust narrator Arthur Morey. His favorite-pair-of-most-comfortable-shoes voice has guided me through some of most favorite and pleasurable literary audio experiences.
As I listened, I found myself wondering who I would compare this author to. Russell Banks, Richard Russo, and John Irving came to mind (although Russo and Irving have an automatic connection because Morey reads so many of their books).
I love Mr. Morey's work. Arthur Morey to me is like coming home and slipping on my very favorite pair of shoes, the ones that are worn in, that fit me perfectly, that still look great after all these years because they were beautifully made to begin with. I've heard some people describe him as whiny, but for me, that's usually because the character calls for it. He isn't a tricky narrator, full of distinct accents or tones. He's simple, well-paced, a very good reader.
What stands out for me most--and shows that all they hype on this book was the real deal--is that I didn't like this book at all when I first started listening to it. But toward the end--and after a lot of cringing and laughing--I really wanted to see how these characters would find their way. I cared about them a lot at the end. Well, maybe not Winn. But even in his utter distastefulness, this is a character worth spending some time with. If nothing else, just for the sheer relief that he's not one of your actual relatives.
I am surprised at how much I've continued to think about this book, even though I heard "The End" several weeks ago.
If you like John Irving, Richard Russo, and Audrey Neffenegger, you will most likely enjoy this book immensely.
- Annie M.
Resist, Not Worth the Credit