Seating Arrangements

  • by Maggie Shipstead
  • Narrated by Arthur Morey
  • 12 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.


What the Critics Say

"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)


See More Like This

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A Vivid Portrait

Seating Arrangements has a large cast of supporting characters, but the focus of the story is Winn Van Meter. Winn is almost 60, well off (although not as well off as he'd like to be) and a Harvard alum. He's also obsessed with looking successful, and desperately lacking in any semblance of self-awareness.

Along with giving away FAR too many plot points, the summary proclaims this novel as "Hilarious". That's not a word I'd use to describe the book. I never laughed out loud, and I'm not even sure if I ever found myself smiling; I did, however, find myself fascinated.

I suspect that most people have known someone like Winn Van Meter. The successful, old-school man that takes himself very seriously, and get's extremely offended if you make the mistake of teasing him good-naturedly. He's overly invested in receiving formal apologies for small or imagined wrongs, while never for a moment suspecting that he may owe someone else an apology. Most of all, he can't figure out why his life isn't going exactly - to the letter - the way he wants it to; after all, it's all about him, and HE certainly didn't do a darn thing wrong.

This isn't a book with a lot of over-the-top drama. It's subtle and smart, and very insightful. As I listened, I kept marveling that I hadn't come across a book about this character before; it seems so obvious there should be one.

The other review I read for this book expressed disappointment with the narration. I understand where that is coming from, although I enjoyed the narration very much. There are two styles of narrators; those that act out the book, with unique voices and lots of emotion, and those that simply serve as the reader. Arthur Morey is the latter, which I found a good fit for the style and content. I enjoyed that his low key style mirrored the tone of the book.

All in all, a breath of fresh air.
Read full review

- Amanda "I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it."

Nice wasp lit if you like this sort of thing

Arguably the most interesting thing about this book is how polarized the listener reviews are...people either liked/loved the book, or were truly bored and annoyed with everything about it.
So if you're considering whether or not to download this, you need to figure out into which camp you fall.
To help you, I've constructed the following handy quiz:

John Cheever was:
a: genius
b: a pretentious asshole
c: who?

Wasps are:
a: tragically anachronistic self-identified delusional isolationists
b: pretentious assholes
c: scary poisonous insects

I plan to listen to this book:
a: on the beach half-drunk
b: commuting on a shitty subway train while my pretentious asshole boss is at the beach probably half-drunk
c: what do you mean by plan?

In a book about a family with issues, an exploding dead whale is:
a: a finely-crafted literary representation of building family resentments
b a ridiculously obvious metaphor for a bunch of pretentious assholes
c: super gross

When if comes to Audible narrators, I prefer
a: whomever fits the tone of the book best
b: whomever feels like a comfortable old shoe and isn't a pretentious asshole
c: someone who doesn't sound like my rabbi

I identify with characters who:
a: are revealed slowly and have interesting backstories
b: get my interest and sympathy right away and don't bore me to sleep
c: exhibit poor judgement

ANSWER KEY: If you had mostly a's or c's, you will probably like this book, but if you had any b answers, this probably isn't your cup of tea.

A note on the narration: I think Arthur Morey--much as I love him--was seriously miscast here. His narration isn't waspy enough to be the voice of Winn (sorry but there's just too much New York Borough/LES in his diction) and his substandard raspy-lispy-falsetto female voices don't contribute much to a novel in which most of the characters are, in fact, female.
I'm not in the biz but for what it's worth if I could cast any narrator for this it would be Dylan Baker....
Read full review

- Sand

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-12-2012
  • Publisher: Random House Audio