The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder
Published by Flatiron Books on June 6, 2017
Genre(s): fiction, contemporary, women’s fiction
Format & Pages: hardcover, 326
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Relationships are awful. They’ll kill you, right up to the point where they start saving your life.
Paul and Alice’s half-sister Eloise is getting married! In London! There will be fancy hotels, dinners at “it” restaurants and a reception at a country estate complete with tea lights and embroidered cloth napkins.
They couldn’t hate it more.
The People We Hate at the Wedding is the story of a less than perfect family. Donna, the clan’s mother, is now a widow living in the Chicago suburbs with a penchant for the occasional joint and more than one glass of wine with her best friend while watching House Hunters International. Alice is in her thirties, single, smart, beautiful, stuck in a dead-end job where she is mired in a rather predictable, though enjoyable, affair with her married boss. Her brother Paul lives in Philadelphia with his older, handsomer, tenured track professor boyfriend who’s recently been saying things like “monogamy is an oppressive heteronormative construct,” while eyeing undergrads. And then there’s Eloise. Perfect, gorgeous, cultured Eloise. The product of Donna’s first marriage to a dashing Frenchman, Eloise has spent her school years at the best private boarding schools, her winter holidays in St. John and a post-college life cushioned by a fat, endless trust fund. To top it off, she’s infuriatingly kind and decent.
As this estranged clan gathers together, and Eloise’s walk down the aisle approaches, Grant Ginder brings to vivid, hilarious life the power of family, and the complicated ways we hate the ones we love the most in the most bitingly funny, slyly witty and surprisingly tender novel you’ll read this year.
The People We Hate at the Wedding turned out not to be at all what I was expecting. Upon closing the book, I couldn’t decide how I felt about it. There were some aspects that I really liked and others that just didn’t do it for me. Let’s just start at the beginning.
This story actually begins a few months before the wedding, when Alice and Paul have received the invitations for their half-sister Eloise’s wedding and are attempting to figure out just how much money Eloise must have spent on them. The majority of the book takes place during the lead up to, and finally culminating in the moments before the wedding. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, for some reason I had expected this to be a story that took place during the wedding, so it took me a while to assimilate. At the same time, the pacing was a bit off for me, with most of it being on the slow side and the end sweeping up too quickly in comparison.
“Catching a glimpse of herself in the blackened television’s reflection, she thinks: This isn’t me. This can’t be me. I don’t know who it is, but it’s not me.
Or maybe it is, and that’s the awful truth.”
Told in multiple points of view, this book opens alternating between Paul and Alice, and over time expands to include the points of view of some of the other family members: their mother, Donna; Eloise; and Eloise’s fiancé, Ollie. My first impressions of Paul and Alice were that they were both incredibly unlikable, narcissistic characters and if I’d had to read the whole book through their perspectives (or heaven forbid, just one of them!) I probably would not have finished it. Their constant negative thoughts and poor decisions made me uncomfortable and I kept finding myself wanting to either help or strangle them. Frankly, by the time I read a chapter through Eloise’s perspective, it was like a breath of fresh air.
“Never expect someone to change, because he won’t. If you don’t love someone at his worst, you shouldn’t bother loving him at all.”
While there were some great moments of writing here, a lot of it just wasn’t to my taste. Between plenty of swearing, use of unnecessarily big words, and sex that was described way too explicitly, I found myself cringing all over the place. But then there would be a witty remark that made me laugh out loud or a thoroughly sincere sentence that would make me stop and think. In some ways, the style of Ginder’s writing actually mirrored the message in this story. It got under my skin and made me uncomfortable. You know, like family does. And then it did something brilliant, and I loved it. You know, like family does.
The People We Hate at the Wedding won’t be for everyone. But if a sarcastic and satiric writing style suits you, you might enjoy this story about dysfunctional family dynamics and the powerful bond of love that endures through it all.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy via Goodreads Giveaway!