Seating Arrangements
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Seating Arrangements

3.0 of 5 stars 3.00  ·  rating details  ·  9,521 ratings  ·  1,700 reviews
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 arrange...more
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2012)
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Community Reviews

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When, WHEN will I learn to avoid these insufferable Iowa Writers' Workshop books, all of which blend together in a sea (ocean analogy intentional) of WASP despair? I worry they must be arming these Iowa students with copies of "Catcher in the Rye", "The Great Gatsby", and enough existential, end-of-empire ennui to fell a country club (or this weary reader, at least).

"Seating Arrangements" is the story of the Van Meter family, who is preparing for the eldest daughter's marriage at the family comp...more
Jan 07, 2013 Bailey rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
I should know by now that choosing a book because its cover is cute and pastel and featuring two lobsters in love is not reason enough. And yet, those were my main motivations in reading Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. Halfway through reading this book I stopped and asked myself if I was failing as a reader—perhaps it was a satire and not meant to be read with an earnest eye. It wasn’t until the last sentence that I felt safe in saying that there was definitely some attempted criticism...more
Well, turns out I just do not give a shit. DONE.
What a puzzle. It's been a long time since I've read a book about which I felt so little. Seating Arrangements contains some beautiful writing and deftly woven dialogue, characters who seem real enough, if reassuringly unlike anyone I've ever known, and a few laugh-out-loud moments ("Why had this man of all men made so many sons who wanted to fuck his daughters?"). We get plenty of viewpoints as the story reveals itself, but the transitions between them feel contrived, as though we're meant to b...more
I read so many great reviews about this book that I thought I has to be great. Now, having just finished I am wondering what all the hype is about? Maybe, I am not sophisticated enough to enjoy a book about a family that I thought were not very deep and so self involve they can't be bothered to think about anyone but themselves. I don't know, it was just a big let down.
The Story is about Winn, a 59 year old married father of 2 daughters. His oldest is getting married, she is seven months pregna...more
A review of Seating Arrangements, aka, The Whitest Book I've Read All Year. And I read The Marriage Plot.

A few nights ago, as I was preparing to check this book out of a venerable New England institution that shall remain nameless, I felt the hand of a man I knew to be very elderly graze the entirety of my ass, from left to right. As if to explain the action, the owner of the hand leaned in to whisper the title of this book into my ear. Wine and cheese were had by all.

I recount this story becaus...more
Winn Van Meter and his family head for a retreat on the New England island of Waskeke. While this is normally a haven of relaxation for Winn, now it’s overshadowed by the preparation of his daughter’s wedding. A weekend with his family and his daughter’s bridesmaids only days before the big event is never a recipe for the calmness or solitude he is accustomed to in this house.

Part social satire, part chick lit, this is surprisingly intelligent and humorous in between the relationship drama of th...more
Danielle Lundberg
Boo hoo. being rich is such a drag because sometimes your beach house on an exclusive island isn't enough, and you want to get into a private club, but they won't have you.

Here's an example of some really bad writing from this book: "The lobsters had turned the clownish red of death." Blech. Bad writing. It abounds in this book. Not everywhere, but it's there. And it strikes you, and you go, "What the...?" and then you move on, try to shake it off, but you're still like, "What kind of stupid met...more
Seating Arrangements
Maggie Shipstead

My " in a nutshell" summary...

Family and friends gather on and island for a wedding. A mix of beliefs and personalities lead to an interesting weekend.

My thoughts after reading...

Hmmm...I truly enjoyed this book. It was very character driven but in spite of preppy goofy names...everyone was easy to remember. It had all the things I love in a book...prep schools, clubbiness, very dysfunctional characters, odd situations, drinking and reasonably bad behaviors...more
emi Bevacqua
Have I all of a sudden become 85 years old and intolerant of all popular culture?? Last night I gasped and tssked through the film adaptation of The Descendants, sputtering that if viewers see that George Clooney's own children don't respect him then they're going to be all like oh well I guess it's okay if my kids don't respect me either. And now here I am reading Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead and being similarly outraged! This book, in a word, is MISOGYNISTIC. The whole premise is I...more
Shipstead has a promising setting (the New England island of Waskeke) and a promising scenario (a wedding), but she doesn't manage to execute a compelling telling of the story. She doesn't make the main characters likeable enough—they are all exasperating—and those characters spend the days leading up to the wedding taking actions that we don't understand (or believe?). Shipstead provides back stories (boy, does she provide back stories) but the stories outline events without providing the psych...more
A smart and funny look at a family confronting change -- a wedding, a soon to be born grandchild, prospective infidelity, a daughter destabilized by the end of her first serious relationship and, most of all, the unwinding of decades of self-delusions. Maggie Shipstead's portrayal of the Van Meter's during the few days before the eldest daughter's wedding is a pitch perfect satire and a well crafted examination of a individuals confronting their long held beliefs about themselves and their relat...more
Several illicit affairs (some consummated physically, others mere farce), a wedding, a golf cart accident, and two pregnancies….not to mention the weathervane incident.

I found “Seating Arrangements” hilariously funny. It centers around a very pregnant woman, Daphne, who’s having her wedding on Cape Cod. Her father, Winn, who fancies himself an old guard aristocrat, is a consummate narcissist who somehow manages to be lovable. He couldn’t see another person’s point of view if it came up and bit h...more
Depressing. There, I said it. Ok, there is critical acclaim for this young author describing a jaded view of life among the "monied classes" on the Eastern Seaboard, with their pretensions outweighing in value apparently the love of their children.

She makes a good effort, I guess. Life is messy for everyone, in spite of our efforts to make everything pretty, belong to the best clubs, wear the right clothes. We are all human but the monied classes get to experience life differently, with or with...more
(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw
You've heard of Bridezilla -- well everyone but the bride and the bride's mother deserves a "zilla" in this book. Maybe it's WASPzilla! There are a lot of people wearing clothing with whales or ducks on them, many references to Princeton, tennis clubs, Bloody Marys, etc. The action all takes place in and around Winn Van Meter's New England summer home on the weekend his pregnant daughter is getting married. Winn lusts after one of the bridesmaids. The bride's sister tries to forge a rebound roma...more
Dec 17, 2013 Jen rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
In a fictional universe, this is exactly the book an English major would write, assuming the author of said fictional universe had a really poor opinion of English majors.

This book is full of DEEP MEANING, and UNDER CURRENTS, and BIG EVOCATIVE WORDS. You can almost hear the author thinking after a particularly annoying sentence "ooh that's good."

The story is about Winn, an unlikeable guy in New England, who is going to host his pregnant daughter's wedding on an island called Waskeke. He's a ho...more
Ron Charles
When I was an English teacher, we always ended the school year with a ritual argument about summer reading. My erudite opponents claimed students should gird their loins and trudge through George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” or some other Improving Literature. My free-spirited comrades and I countered that June, July and August were months to let sun-kissed students wander barefoot through the stacks, picking at whim whatever titles they might enjoy.

Many of us are still silently carrying out that argum...more
Andy Miller
This novel is touted as a satire of upper crust New England WASPish life. However, there are too many chapters, too many pages devoted to the details of the exclusive social clubs at Harvard, the private clubs of New York and Boston and the golf club on the island where the novel takes place for a true satire, sadly the novel is more about this odd life style than a satire of it

The novel takes place on an New England resort island during a family wedding. The novel shifts its point of views with...more
The best part about this read is the language and the writing – how Shipstead crafts a sentence. It’s really lovely to work your way through. Lots of preppy and aquatic references that, rather than annoy, help to solidify the people and setting of the novel. What’s more WASP-y than a theme, no?

I liked that the threads of plotlines began to form into a picture slowly. I think I was almost halfway through the book when it began to dawn on me that the central characters were going to be the father,...more
Kellie Lambert
I hesitated to review this book because while I really enjoyed it, it was messy. It read sort of like a People magazine, with the affairs, the drama, the sort of amoral look on life (I like reading, People, don't get me wrong.) I'll just say it--I didn't want to be judged for enjoying the drama. That being said, the book was well-written. The pacing of the story was great, it kept me guessing, and there were some really unsettling, thought-provoking scenes in it that left me thinking. I know a b...more
The seating arrangements at a wedding and last few days before "I do" take careful planning. Maggie Shipstead takes this premise and weaves a sometimes humorous, often dark novel centered on the father and sister of the bride with the rest of the bridal party and the setting - an East Coast island one imagines is fashioned on Martha's Vineyard - as supporting characters. Making these two people, who usually have small roles in a wedding, be the novel's focal point skews the novel beautifully.

Really, really strong book. So many times, the way the author expressed the situation at hand, I thought, "How rich!" Examples:

Tabitha was drinking orange juice through a straw so as not to disrupt the precise vermillion lacquer on her lips.


Sam Snead hadn't gotten to be where she was in the wedding-planning world by being insensitive to human discord. How many disasters had she prevented over the years, how many abandonments? How many cold feet had she warmed with rosy talk about future and...more
DNF. About the point where the Father of the Bride, who fantasizes actively about his daughter's friend Agatha, goes from fantasy to physical in the laundry room with said Agatha while there's a party going on outside, where his WIFE also is, on the eve of his daughter's wedding, I became rather revolted and went no further. Social satire/commentary? Really? Well, if the commentary is how shallow this family and their friends are, ok, I guess. Mission accomplished. The characters came across as...more
Hillarious satire of dysfunctional family realtionships at a WASPy wedding...sounds like totally my thing. It wasn't. I found the writing tedious and uniteresting. The characters were unlikeable and the relationships seemed contrived and not very compelling. I picked this book up on a whim because I was looking for a lighter read after several very heavy novels. Hoping it would be a fun, light, end of summer novel. And the author's bio indicated she has written critically acclaimed short stories...more
Gorgeous, taut prose. Wry, knowing humor. Reminiscent of Mrs. Dalloway in its psychological sensibility, if not its multiplicity of sex scenes. A refreshing read that offers a glimpse into the yearnings and repressions of America's striving aristocratic class.
*This review makes the book sound much more depressing than it is. I genuinely liked “Seating Arrangements.” I promise.*

A wedding is as good a setting as any for a literary novel. In some ways, it’s probably better than most – weddings, even the smoothest and best ones, all come with drama and all have potential for emotions and tenuous family relationships to push up against one another. Maggie Shipstead definitely picked a good starting point for her debut novel.

Then again, this particular wed...more
I started this book once but couldn't get into it - who are these people? there's no one here I want to spend time with - and put it down. But after hearing Maggie Shipstead talk about it I gave it another try and ended up liking it a lot. She is not herself a New England WASP but she has spent time in that world, so her own perspective is that of Dominique, the outsider in the group.

Shipstead does a great job of capturing the different levels of self-awareness in her characters, from very litt...more
Shipstead writes beautifully, I admired her well-crafted sentences. She is a young woman, and I was delightfully surprised that this novel focused more on middle-aged patriarch Winn and not as much on the bride-to-be or her sister.

Some reviewers have said that Winn is an unlikeable character, and he may be that, but he is also complicated and unique. I’d much rather read about an interesting yet flawed character than a likable, boring one.

Poor Winn has been surrounded and perplexed by the women...more
Reading about the New England seersucker-clad jet set kind of leaves me cold, even with the mild bite of satire and even when the pink polo shirts look like they might be starting to develop a feeling (other than drunkenness)(is drunkenness a feeling?)(okay, other than jealousy).

Winn spends most of the novel, which takes place over the weekend of his daughter's wedding, demonstrating his supreme selfishness. He's preoccupied with getting into a particular country club, bedding one of the bridesm...more
Sometimes I read a book that forces me to face my own limitations in a new way. Seating Arrangements is just such a book. Winn Van Meter, the book's most prominent character, reminded me of myself. Was that Shipstead's goal? I don't know. I never really know what an author expects us to read into a book. I only know how it speaks to me. At any rate, Winn is a person who doesn't really understand his own limitations. In realizing that about the character; I see it about myself.
I am the first to c...more
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Maggie Shipstead was born in 1983 and grew up in Orange County, California. Her short fiction has appeared in Tin House, VQR, Glimmer Train, The Best American Short Stories, and other publications. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University.
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“Female friendship was one-tenth prevention and nine-tenths cleanup.” 11 likes
“Marriage is difficult, perhaps the most difficult thing you can ever do, besides being a parent, but I think these two fine young people are up to the challenge. Here are two steady, responsible people who, I believe, understand the dire commitment they are about to make and will choose to keep that commitment. Because it turns out to be a choice, commitment-not some done deal. When you leave the alter tomorrow, there will still be a lifetime of choice and temptation and doubt and uncertainty in front of you. I didn't know that at my wedding. Getting married doesn't change you. Marriage changes you.” 8 likes
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