Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

88%

25 Critic Reviews

Taking place over the course of the wedding weekend, Ms. Shipstead’s first novel firmly tugs at Winn’s hanging threads, producing a sharp social satire.
-NY Times

Synopsis

Maggie Shipstead’s Seating Arrangements is a stunning debut, an irresistible social satire that is also an unforgettable meditation on the persistence of hope, the yearning for connection, and the promise of enduring love.

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 arrangements are sideswept by a storm of salacious misbehavior and intractable lust: Daphne’s sister, Livia, who has recently had her heart broken by Teddy Fenn, the son of her father’s oldest rival, is an eager target for the seductive wiles of Greyson’s best man; Winn, instead of reveling in his patriarchal duties, is tormented by his long-standing crush on Daphne’s beguiling bridesmaid Agatha; and the bride and groom find themselves presiding over a spectacle of misplaced desire, marital infidelity, and monumental loss of faith in the rituals of American life.

Hilarious, keenly intelligent, and commandingly well written, Shipstead’s deceptively frothy first novel is a piercing rumination on desire, on love and its obligations, and on the dangers of leading an inauthentic life, heralding the debut of an exciting new literary voice. 

This ebook edition includes a Reading Group Guide.
 

About Maggie Shipstead

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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.
 
Published June 12, 2012 by Vintage. 433 pages
Genres: Other, Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment, History, Arts & Photography. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Seating Arrangements
All: 25 | Positive: 22 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Below average
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Jun 01 2012

...her characters are worse than cartoonishly unlikable—they are, with the exception of Dominique, yawn-provokingly uninteresting.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Susannah Meadows on Jun 27 2012

Taking place over the course of the wedding weekend, Ms. Shipstead’s first novel firmly tugs at Winn’s hanging threads, producing a sharp social satire.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by DYLAN LANDIS on Jun 22 2012

Notwithstanding Winn’s seizure of extramarital desire, Shipstead reins in the novel by risking less than she might have.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Anita Sethi on Jul 20 2013

...throughout is the assured hand of a writer who knows that despite the most meticulous planning, often the most momentous things happen quite by chance – in both life and literature.

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Examiner

Excellent
Reviewed by KRISTIN WILSON on Oct 18 2012

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead will make you crack a smile if you enjoy dry, tongue-in-cheek humor.

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Washington Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Claire Hopley on Jun 29 2012

...is an amazingly assured first novel. If its subject matter suggests it as a summer read, its scrutiny of a social class recommends it as a novel to savor, and certifies Maggie Shipstead as a novelist to value.

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Entertainment Weekly

Excellent
Reviewed by Sara Vilkomerson on Jul 03 2012

Seating Arrangements brims with sharp observations about love, lust, family, and the real meaning of marital bliss.

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The Washington Post

Excellent
Reviewed by Ron Charles on Jun 05 2012

Shipstead’s weave of wit and observation continually delights.

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The Bookbag

Excellent
Reviewed by Robin Leggett on May 10 2012

It is though an entertaining and well-written insight into a world that I'm very glad not to be a part of.

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USA Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Olivia Barker on Jul 14 2012

...has crafted one of those smart summer reads that makes you want to mix a gin and tonic, settle into an Adirondack chair and drink it in.

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The Maine Edge

Excellent
Reviewed by Allen Adams on Jun 14 2012

“Seating Arrangements” manages to be funny and dark and poignant...Shipstead is a gifted storyteller whose richly realized characters and sweetly flowing prose coalesce into a tale that is by parts sweet and sharp, humorous and heartbreaking.

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The Boston Globe

Excellent
Reviewed by Alice Gregory on Jun 19 2012

...This is one of those rare debut novels that neither forsakes plot for language nor language for plot. It is gratifying on every scale

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San Francisco Chronicle

Excellent
Reviewed by S. Kirk Walsh on Jun 10 2012

Shipstead's sentences simmer and crackle on the page. This reader certainly looks forward to reading the author's next novel...

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The Sydney Morning Herald

Excellent
Reviewed by John Bailey on Jul 15 2012

...does a fine job of constructing its central figure, the kind of unapologetic man's man for whom anything womanly is as alien as Saturn.

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Macleans

Excellent
Reviewed by Anne Kingston on Jun 22 2012

Maggie Shipstead’s marvellous first novel, set over three days in a summer house off the coast of Massachusetts, plumbs the terrain wryly and slyly to surprisingly poignant effect.

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Lincoln Journal Star

Excellent
Reviewed by Amanda St. Amand on Jul 18 2012

...sharp debut novel a witty and spot-on satire that looks at the world of Winn and Biddy Van Meter and their uptight New England existence.

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Mail Online

Excellent
Reviewed by STEPHANIE CROSS on May 17 2012

But Shipstead’s tangled web is irresistible, there are some great gags as well as moments of real pathos, and her prose is often joyously good.

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For Books' Sake

Excellent
Reviewed by Laura Vickers on Jun 25 2012

...the prose is so blissfully colourful and well-structured that at times it almost sings. This is intelligent – at times poignant – writing that makes me eager to read what she comes up with next.

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Book Oxygen

Excellent
Reviewed by Caroline Sanderson

...has written a novel as beadily perceptive of the tides of family life as anything by Anne Tyler or Carol Shields.

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The Upcoming.

Excellent
Reviewed by Emma Sleight on Oct 13 2012

However, Shipstead neatly sidesteps melodrama and instead, her story is surprisingly moving and engaging with moments of beauty...

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Ms. Wordopolis Reads

Below average
Reviewed by Rebecca. on Aug 06 2012

The repressed characters and the closed-off location made me expect lots of juicy family drama, and that there is in this book.

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Unputdownables

Good
Reviewed by WALLACE on Jul 31 2012

An easy, well-written, funny, and (actually) poignant novel – it’s a fantastic one for summer.

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The Librarian Reads.

Good
Reviewed by Sara on Sep 20 2012

The best part about this read is the language and the writing – how Shipstead crafts a sentence.

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Drunk Literature.

Good
Reviewed by Rebecca on Aug 30 2012

Shipstead’s brilliance is in the way she makes the archetypal characters believable and so utterly relatable.

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The Writing University

Good
Reviewed by Denise Behrens on Jun 19 2012

If you're looking for a rollicking beach read this summer, Seating Arrangements is your best bet.

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Reader Rating for Seating Arrangements
57%

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