Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: A Wedding in Provence: A Novel by Ellen Sussman

Published by: Ballantine Books
Published on: July 15, 2014
Page Count: 288
Genre: Fiction
My Reading Format: ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley
Available Formats: Kindle ebook and hardcover

My Review: 

Have you ever been a part of a wedding (your own or a family member or close friend's), and in the days leading up to the big event, tensions and relationship drama and past issues all begin to surface, layers peeling away like an onion? We all have. Weddings bring out the best and worst in people. All that togetherness can really make things interesting.

That's the case in A Wedding in Provence for the soon-to-be wed couple Brody and Olivia. They've arrived in the French countryside a few days before their ceremony, to be held at the inn owned and operated by Olivia's best friend Emily and her husband Sebastian. As the other wedding guests arrive, we learn about their relationships with one another and their past and present lives. There's Brody's womanizing best friend Jake, Olivia's two adult daughters Nell and Carly, Brody's mother Fanny and Nell's date Gavin who all bring their (literal and figurative) baggage with them for the weekend. Also present are the shadows of others who aren't attending the wedding: Nell's recently deceased boyfriend Chaney, Nell and Carly's father, Carly's workaholic boyfriend Wes, Brody's father and widower Brody's first wife and first love.

The relationships are complicated and still in progress in many cases. Olivia wants to relax as the bride-to-be but is mothering her two troubled daughters, both of whom are working through issues from their lives back home and undergoing a period of self-discovery. Their father is still a part of their lives (as much as he can be), and Nell and Carly are unsure about letting their mother's new husband into their lives. Nell still struggles with her boyfriend's suicide months before, and is still making the rash decisions she has made her whole life, such as bringing her seat mate from her flight with her to the wedding. Gavin seems like fun at first but is sketchy, not surprisingly bailing on Nell as soon as he gets the chance. Carly, the put-together, predictable sister, is rethinking her boring life with a boring boyfriend and let loose a little. Brody is navigating his parents' failed marriage, and father's sickness and absence from the wedding. Even innkeepers Emily and Sebastian have hit a rough patch in their marriage.

Overall, this book is a fun read. I would have loved to see this French town on the Mediterranean, and its fabulous wine and food take more of a central role in the book. At times I found the characters and their sex lives to be tiring. But, the characters are complex and were enjoyable. At the end of the book Olivia is the beautiful bride and Brody the happy groom, and they are married surrounded by their favorite friends and relatives. The book ends but not neatly, which is, I think, just like real life, which has many of the same themes this book has: second chances, making up for lost time, healing, forgiveness and love.

Three and a half stars out of five

If you liked this book, you’ll like French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman and Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (for an American take on visiting the European countryside), and Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin and Once Upon a Time There Was You by Elizabeth Berg (for stories about weddings).

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