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A Wedding in December    by Anita Shreve order for
Wedding in December
by Anita Shreve
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

A group of friends, who spent their school days at Maine's Kidd Academy, are now sharing a weekend at an inn in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. The seven former classmates have gathered for the wedding of two of their number - Bill and Bridget. When I began reading, I was reminded of The Big Chill. While such a plot seems too ordinary for a Shreve book, the cast of complex characters - with varying motivations, desires, and sorrows - held my interest throughout. (Thankfully, this is not your typical friends gathering and reuniting tale, which I believe is over-used.)

Nora, the owner of the inn, has been a widow since her eccentric poet husband (thirty years her senior) died a few years before. During their Kidd Academy days, Nora dated Stephen, who died in an accident that still haunts the rest of the group. Harrison, especially, feels Stephen's death, having been his close friend and having also secretly pined for Nora since their first meeting at Kidd Academy. Harrison is married to an attorney (who could not break from work to attend the weekend wedding) with two sons. Though not available, he finds himself overwhelmed with longing for Nora, who has retained her beauty and grace over the years.

Though Bridget was Bill's school sweetheart, he broke off their relationship when he met his first wife. They met again at a school reunion when Bridget was recovering from a painful divorce. Though married with a daughter, Bill ended up leaving his wife. Tragically, Bridget has since been diagnosed with breast cancer. Bill is anxious to marry and meld their lives, not knowing how much longer Bridget has to live. Agnes, Rob and Jerry round out the group. Agnes is a history teacher at Kidd Academy, and has a huge secret that she longs to reveal to the others. Jerry and Rob are polar opposites, Rob being mellow and easy-going while Jerry has a fiery, if not abrasive, personality.

Clearly, Shreve cannot delve too deeply into each character but she does an admirable job of fleshing them out, while focusing mainly on Harrison and Nora, Bill and Bridget, and on Agnes' secret. My favorite parts of this book are installments of a historical fiction story that Agnes is writing. It's about the Halifax disaster that killed thousands and injured even more. Agnes creates the character of Innes, a young doctor who is in love with one woman but feels bound to her sister. Agnes feels great gratification from controlling the fates of her characters in stark contrast to her own life.

Shreve can always be counted to deliver a powerful, thought-provoking novel and her fans will enjoy A Wedding In December. It is nicely set up for a sequel and I would enjoy reading more about where life takes these characters.

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