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Seating Arrangements

3.02  ·  Rating Details ·  15,416 Ratings  ·  2,349 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 ...more
Hardcover, 302 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Knopf (first published 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Sep 16, 2012 Melissa rated it it was ok
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
Nov 07, 2014 Elizabeth rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, underwhelmed
Well, turns out I just do not give a shit. DONE.
Jan 07, 2013 Bailey rated it it was ok
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
Dec 09, 2012 jenn rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, fiftyfiftyme
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
Aug 25, 2016 Elyse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
UPDATE: $1.99 special today! This book is GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I should have given it a solid 5 stars when I read I STILL remember it!!!! The characters will make you cringe ---(none of them are likable) ---but you'll have soooooooo much fun with this story). A wedding from hell........ lol
Maggie is a wonderful writer!!! I can't wait for a 'new release' from her! This book 'is' worth jumping at for $1.99

4.7 stars

*Maggie Shipstead's* writing is explosive and exciting!!!!!!

Jun 26, 2012 Julie rated it it was ok
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
Jun 13, 2012 Sienna rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle, 2012
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
Emi Bevacqua
Nov 18, 2012 Emi Bevacqua rated it did not like it
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 ...more
Jun 14, 2013 Danielle rated it it was ok
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
Jul 14, 2012 Patty rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 06, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 08, 2012 Anmiryam rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Ron Charles
Nov 23, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
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
Aug 18, 2015 DeB MaRtEnS rated it did not like it
Shelves: dramatic-fiction
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
Jul 11, 2012 Arlene rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Ana Ovejero
Jan 20, 2016 Ana Ovejero rated it really liked it
This story happens during a weekend, just three days of a family celebrating the weeding of the eldest. However, the author is able to show in that short period of time the strenghts and weaknesses of the human heart.

With a tragicomedy tone, we meet the issues unearthed by the fact that the whole family Van Meters is together in their beach house. Upper class, wealthy, member of golf clubs, the father Winn seems to have everything he wants. However, we soon discover his insecurities as he is obs
Jul 25, 2014 Jill rated it liked it
If you dissected the pages of Seating Arrangements trying to locate its literary heart, you’d find nothing bloody or moving or living but instead a cold, hard machine that transmits keen social analysis and psychological insight but nothing emotional or affective. Which is, perhaps, the point. Just look at the title—Seating Arrangements—it’s about a marriage, a celebration of love uniting of two people, but the title has reduced it to the behind-the-scenes mechanics required to organize such an ...more
Dec 17, 2013 Jen rated it did not like it
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
Jul 05, 2012 Cynthia rated it really liked it
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
Aug 01, 2016 Antonia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Social comedy — or satire — WASPY, old money, upper-class New England family — loves, losses, longings. It all takes place on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of a wedding weekend on an island off East Coast, where all the bride’s and groom’s families have convened. It would literally make a great “beach read.” The fun is all the stuff that’s going on beneath the surface and, as I read somewhere, the class between appearances and authenticity. There’s one thoroughly pretentious and unlikable ...more
Rebecca Foster
Aug 11, 2016 Rebecca Foster rated it really liked it
Seating Arrangements was one of my favorite debut novels of 2012. Taking place over just three days, it is the tale of an upper middle class family preparing for their (heavily pregnant) daughter’s wedding weekend on an island off Connecticut. There are shades of Jonathan Franzen (the wry look at family dysfunction), of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot, and of Zadie Smith (e.g. the subtle class considerations of On Beauty). But the novel is also reminiscent of Carol Shields’s Larry’s Party ...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 ...more
Jan 08, 2016 Danielle rated it did not like it
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
Oct 08, 2012 Sara rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-lit
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,
Kellie Lambert
Nov 23, 2012 Kellie Lambert rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jan 31, 2013 Jane rated it really liked it
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.

Jun 15, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it
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
Sep 27, 2012 Marilyn rated it did not like it
Perhaps I'm jaded. I just cannot understand what the hype is about this sad little debut novel.

I guess realizing that I am part of the now infamous 47% of Americans, I'm finding it rather taxing to feel terribly awful for an affluent family of misfits whose terrible woes include not getting into a golf club and the exhausting task of looking the other way on a husband's imagined infidelities.

Nope. I could not relate, nor would I want to, to Biddy and Daphne and Winn and Sterling and Piper and an
3.5 stars. Big WASPs, little problems. That pretty much sums up this book. Friends and family descend on ancestral beach/island home for the (shotgun) wedding of the oldest daughter then proceed to obsess incessantly about shit that doesn’t matter. Livia is probably the only one with an actual problem but she, of course, focuses on the inane (I have no doubt this was done on purpose). The main protagonist (in my view anyway) is Winn, father of the bride, but we do get a peek into others’ ...more
Andy Miller
Apr 06, 2013 Andy Miller rated it it was ok
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
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What do you think the whale symbolizes? 2 17 Jul 22, 2014 03:29PM  
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Maggie Shipstead is the author of two novels: Astonish Me and Seating Arrangements, which won the Dylan Thomas Prize and the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction.

She is a graduate of Harvard and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. Her writing has appeared in many publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle,
More about Maggie Shipstead...

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“Female friendship was one-tenth prevention and nine-tenths cleanup.” 17 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.” 11 likes
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