A Big 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.
The thing I liked about this book the most though was the end. In a way, she left everything all up in the air; Bridget’s fate, Harrison’s final decision, but instead of being melancholy as the rest of the book seemed to be, it almost had a hopeful feel about it. Like no matter what, everything was going to be okay.
There was one small part of this book that stood out to me more than everything else, and I think it has a good meaning. Unfortunately I cannot transpose what happened exactly because I listened to this as audio book – and finding it would be that much more difficult. Anyhow, the basic idea was this: Harrison was walking in the snow, on his way to Nora’s place when he stopped, because he had a thought about his wife. He described himself as having two lives that were at that point colliding, but only one could be reality and one could only exist in imagination. It was at that point that he turned and went back to his room. I’m sure that doesn’t sound near as well with me summarizing as it did in the book – but I just felt like it was a moment of truth for Harrison.
This book was quite mild, but very entertaining to listen to. There were stories within stories. There were confessions of love and confession of sins. It was the High School Reunion you don’t mind being the fly on the wall for, but definitely would pass on being a participant.