Book Review: The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder

“I wonder why this shit always happens to us,” she says, and presses her cheek against his neck. “I don’t know…” Paul says. “I guess because we let it.”

Authentically rendered, Grant Grinder breaths snarky, acerbic life into the characters of The People We Hate at the Wedding and captures the realistic dysfunction of the modern family. Tensions between members of this particular family are examined and reflected in their inanity through dramatic, outlandish and often comical, scenarios. The centerpiece to this saga is the wedding of one Elosie, daughter of Donna and Henrique following a Parisian affair turned marriage turned divorce, and half-sister to Paul and Alice.

“Please tell me you’ll be there.” “I need to think about it.” “Paul,” she says, trying not to plead. “Tell me you’ll be there.” “I have to go.” “PAUL” “Alice, I’m leaving now.” She leans forward and lowers her voice to a whisper. “So help me God, Paul, if you hang up on me I’ll fucking come for you.” Alice hears Paul sign dramatically, and the line goes dead.

Paul and Alice set out to dissect every aspect of Eloise’s pending nuptials, starting first with the quality and cost of the invitations and leaving no future stone unturned. It is no surprise that the pair would react in this way to the marriage of their half-sister as she has been a source of disdain for their entire lives- the picture of perfection and practically worshiped by their mother, she further illuminates every failure and flaw of her half-brother and half-sister.

With the best of intentions, Eloise has done everything, in her eyes, to show appreciation and some semblance of love for her siblings, however her gestures are often misinterpreted as snobbish, flaunting her wealth and success.

Her rage now a fierce point of medicated light, she asks herself the same questions she’s asked herself for years: How can her sister’s compassion be so profoundly and selfishly misguided? Is she really the only person to realize that behind all Eloise’s giving and caring is a subconscious, though thinly veiled, scheme to lord privilege over he siblings? It’s a sort of false altruism, Alice considers, that’s actually blind to the complications and nuances of other people.

When the pre-wedding festivities bring the family together, Paul and Alice bring with them all of their personal drama: an elitist, materialistic boyfriend with a penchant for three-somes for Paul and a misguided love affair with her boss and a dependence on Klonopin for Alice, not to mention their mother, Donna’s, marijuana habit.

Struggling to maintain composure, even pristine Eloise cannot fend off the imminent “Bride-zilla” moments as her siblings do their accidental best to shatter her picture perfect wedding.

“What’s more, this is my wedding. I’m going to repeat that, so you fully understand it. This is my wedding. Do not fuck this up, Paul. Do you hear me? Do. Not. Fuck. This. Up.”

A comedy of errors ensues as each family member struggles to balance expectation with their personal failures. With each characters’ flaws laid bare, they are able to grow, in even the slightest bit, towards a more cohesive, though imperfect, unit. The People We Hate at the Wedding will leave you appreciating your own eccentric family just a bit more.

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A review copy of this title was provided by Flatiron Books via BookSparks.

 

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