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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (5,490 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Maggie Shipstead Narrator: Arthur Morey Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2012 ISBN: 9780449008782
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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. 

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Delightful…Seating Arrangements brims with sharp observations about love, lust, family, and the real meaning of marital bliss.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Zestful yet acerbic…For all its madcap quirkiness, Shipstead’s adroit escapade artfully delivers a poignant reflection on the enduring if frustrating nature of love, hope, and family.”

    Booklist

  • “Maggie Shipstead is an outrageously gifted writer, and her assured first novel, Seating Arrangements, is by turns hilarious and deeply moving. Richard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic

  • Seating Arrangements is bursting with perfectly observed characters and unforgettable scenes. This gorgeous, wise, funny, sprawling novel about family, fidelity, and social class, is the best book I've read in ages. Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine
  • A pitch-perfect debut from a master storyteller, Seating Arrangements is a rich and deep work: a smart, consuming novel that manages also to be delightfully funny. A romp of a book, with whales and weddings and wealth, it is, at its heart, a warning against the empty seductions of status and exclusivity. Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
  • Smart and frothy…Beneath the surface of this summery romp lie animosities, well-paced sexual suspense and a clash between appearances and authenticity…waltzlike. New York Times Book Review
  • A sophisticated summer romp...Shipstead's weave of wit and observation continually delights. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday she trades her Lilly Pulitzer for something from Joseph Pulitzer. Washington Post
  • "Whipsmart and engaging...the best kind of smart beach read. O Magazine
  • Dead-on delightful…a champagne-fueled, saltwater-scented comedy of upper-crust New England manners and mores. National Geographic Traveler
  • Irresistible [and] joyously good. Daily Mail (UK)

    “Elegant, delightful…Shipstead’s sentences simmer and crackle on the page.
  • This is one of those rare debut novels that neither forsakes plot for language nor language for plot. It is gratifying on every scale…The novel is teeming with the sort of casual philosophizing that encourages passage-underlining and earnest recommendation. The Boston Globe
  • “Elegant, delightful…Shipstead’s sentences simmer and crackle on the page.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • Funny and dark and poignant—sometimes all at once. Shisptead 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. It’s an auspicious debut by an undeniably talented writer. The Maine Edge
  • Zestful yet acerbic…for all its madcap quirkiness, Shipstead’s adroit escapade artfully delivers a poignant reflection on the enduring if frustrating nature of love, hope, and family. Booklist
     
  • Vibrant prose and moments of keen insight. Publishers Weekly
  • Delightful…Shipstead writes with clarity and confidence, nimbly dropping into multiple characters’ heads, giving each a distinct voice and point of view but always with great wit and heart. Seating Arrangements brims with sharp observations about love, lust, family, and the real meaning of marital bliss. Entertainment Weekly, A- review
     
  • [Shipstead’s] book places a magnifying glass over classic New England upper-crust culture…excellent character development and family intrigues galore. Whether reading Seating Arrangements is like looking into a mirror or peeking through the window, the gin-soaked escapades are difficult to turn away from. The Phoenix (Portland, ME)
  • A delicious comedy of manners, set on a New England island, that has fun with all things rich, all things wedding and all things inappropriate. Asbury Park Press
  • “[Seating Arrangements] is really good, funny, and so involving. It’s so well observed, and I couldn’t believe it was written by a 29-year-old author, and that she’s not from a Northeastern WASP family. She captured all these people who are in a different generation from her. R.L. Stine, author of Goosebumps series
     
    “This debut novel is just as full of startling insights as it is of voyeuristic intrigue.
  • “Told from the perspective of the father of the bride, this novel encompasses family, scandal, humor, and a heck of an East Coast beach house that we want to go to! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll cringe at the raw family dynamics that comprise this social satire. FabFitFun

  • Shipstead seems at home in the Waspy milieu of private schools and their preening, privileged attendees…a keen-eyed rendering of America’s self-invented caste, its members’ revelry in an illusory ‘axis of perfect exclusivity’ and their pitiful strivings ‘to be aristocrats’ in a country that was built on anti-aristocratic conventions. The New Yorker
  • Seating Arrangements delightfully and poignantly upends the WASP idyll, poking holes into the studiously shabby carpets to reveal the limitations of a privileged world that revolves around the same plummy prep-school pedigrees, club memberships and summer havens…through prose that sparkles while it slays. USA Today
  • By turns poignant and laugh-out-loud funny (thanks to Shipstead’s gimlet eye and terrific comic timing), Seating Arrangements is a tremendous debut. Everydayebook
  • A wedding held at a family retreat off the New England coast explodes into a weekend of deliciously scandalous behavior. Parade 2012 Summer Reading Guide
  • Told from the wry perspective of the father of the (very pregnant) bride, this spicy debut tracks the goings-on at a Cape Cod wedding where endless drama unfolds. Real Simple, Addictive Summer Novels
  • In Shipstead’s talented hands this WASP wedding weekend becomes the perfect occasion for a pointed social satire that is both a comedy of manners and a thoughtful reflection on the things that matter most in life—family, marriage, and status. At once laugh-out-loud funny and emotionally compelling, Seating Arrangements marks the arrival of an exceptional new voice. Examiner.com
     
  • A wonderfully juicy, frothy and delightful story of a family reunited on a small New England island during a wedding…Shipstead executes the genre perfectly. Cape Cod Times
     
  • “[A] mordant, ferociously clever comedy of manners.”

    Guardian (London)

  • Impressive…Shipstead’s characters…feel totally true to life. People, Style Watch
  • “Beneath the surface of this summery romp lie animosities, well-paced sexual suspense, and a clash between appearances and authenticity…Waltzlike.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Shipstead’s weave of wit and observation continually delights. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday she trades her Lilly Pulitzer for something from Joseph Pulitzer.”

    Washington Post

  • Seating Arrangements delightfully and poignantly upends the WASP idyll…Sparkles while it slays.”

    USA Today

  • “Whipsmart and engaging.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “A wickedly clever tragicomedy of manners that unfolds with the plotting of a juicy mystery and the sharp eye of someone only too aware of the subtle, seemingly pointless class distinctions within the one percent.”

    Slate

  • “Shipstead seems at home in the Waspy milieu of private schools and their preening, privileged attendees…A keen-eyed rendering of America’s self-invented caste.”

    New Yorker

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

    Boston Globe

  • “Dead-on delightful…A champagne-fueled, saltwater-scented comedy of upper-crust New England manners and mores.”

    National Geographic Traveler

  • “A wise, sophisticated and funny novel about family, fidelity, class, and crisis.”

    Marie Claire

  • A 2012 Barnes & Noble Best Book
  • A Barnes & Noble Recommends Selection
  • Selected for the June 2012 Indie Next List
  • A 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Fiction
  • A 2012 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize Finalist
  • Winner of the 2012 Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Prize for First Fiction
  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennifer | 2/7/2014

    " They don't call these people the Chosen Frozen for nothing. The setting is a more or less contemporary W.A.S.P. wedding at the bride's family's summer house on a Martha's Vinyardy island. The kids attended daddy's prep school and are immediately comfortable in daddy's and grandfather's ivy universities and clubs. (Not that they'd ever refer to the rents as "Daddy.") In fact the setting was so familiar to me from my '60s and '70s summers on the Cape that it wasn't until I realized that none of the women were wearing Pappagallo flats and one of the wedding guests was fiddling with her iphone that I was sure the main thread of the story was not a flashback. Of course, these people aren't quite what they seem either. The understated, ever so slightly shabby old home is not the ancestral cottage, and there's a whole lot of striving--sexual and otherwise--underneath the studied causualness. Recommended as a social satire for beach readers. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 1/26/2014

    " This is an excellent depiction of a Waspy summer wedding, lots of familial conflict and character study. I enjoyed it... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Vanessa | 1/26/2014

    " Ehhh. Not sure what all the hype was about. The book often didn't read like satire. At times I felt like the author really believed in her asinine characters. I found myself rolling my eyes as I read further. I continued reading because I was always hoping for more but the story never got any deeper just more & more inane. To those who compared the book to The Corrections - not even close. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cathy | 1/19/2014

    " Love this three-day drama of two families gathering for a wedding and the drama and humor that ensues. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Pamela | 1/14/2014

    " The story of the events of a couple of days leading up to a very WASPy wedding, peopled by self-centered, non-insightful WASPy characters... Meant to be satirical? Ironic? I like character driven novels but I want to like, or at least understand, the main characters; in this book, not so much. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathy | 1/7/2014

    " Having lived in CT I thought it would be a good book to read. It was a nice summer read but I had mixed feelings reading it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Melissa | 12/27/2013

    " Whenever the storyline focused on Winn Van Meter, I pictured Mitt Romney. Nuff said. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Laura | 12/24/2013

    " A sort of WASP-y version of Meet the Parents. I can't stand books or movies where everything that could go wrong does go wrong. I feared this is where the book was headed, but luckily it ended before getting to that point. Emjoyable enough, quick read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mary Jo | 12/18/2013

    " An interesting exploration the social mores of established Eastcoast families. Story takes place over a wedding weekend with some humorous scenes. Not sure I really cared if Winn got into the golf club. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ellen | 12/11/2013

    " Found this book to be rather depressing .... And the main character, Winn, absolutely a pathetic husband, father and human being! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Susan | 7/4/2013

    " Shallow. No true story line. I wonder if it was more of a satire and I just missed it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Natasha | 6/24/2013

    " I wanted to like this book, but the majority of the characters were whiny and obnoxious. The book was way too long, in my opinion, as the story was rather boring. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Abby Jean | 6/19/2013

    " rich east coast people have a wedding, have problems. who cares. read while sick. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Podurham | 5/30/2013

    " Poor Winn. Prim east coast, father of the bride, surrounded by the women in his family in the midst of a mid-life crisis as everyone gathers at the coastal family compound. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sharoneklund | 4/23/2013

    " I had difficulty finding any character in the novel that I really liked. In particular, the protagonist is ethically and morally flawed and a pretentious snob. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Whitney Batista | 4/17/2013

    " Loved this book! I couldn't put it down. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 J. Ross | 3/30/2013

    " This book might have managed a second star from me if Ms. Shipstead had left out the horribly embarrassingly bad sex scenes. A really terrible book considering the author occasionally shows that she can actually write. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jenny | 2/19/2013

    " Speed skimmed through the last one hundred pages to confirm that the rest wasn't worth finishing. I based my decision to read this only on a fellow painter's high esteemed recommendation that it was the best book that she had read all year. Still scratching my head at this... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ann | 1/9/2013

    " Fine. Very well written but not a single character is likable so you aren't cheering for anyone. It was a fun concept but overall it was just okay. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Ddindfw | 10/19/2012

    " I tried to like this... but I couldn't. I gave it until page 87 and I couldn't spend more time on it. Nothing happened - the dullest rambling on & on. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Ellen | 10/15/2012

    " Beautifully writing but beyond that it left me cold. I kept waiting for something with some real depth to happen, but alas I guess that was not to be with this cold and sterile family. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amydebolt DeBolt | 9/24/2012

    " Kept thinking I would like it. Kept thinking something would happen. The cover said "funny!" I waited and waited and waited, and then it was over. Didn't hate it, just thought the characters were ridiculous and couldn't like any of them, which makes it hard for me to like a book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nadine Mims | 9/9/2012

    " Read this for our book club and found it quite trivial. "

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About the Author

Maggie Shipstead is a novelist and short story writer. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Tin House, the Paris Review Daily, American Short Fiction, the Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere. Her story “La Moretta” was a 2012 National Magazine Award finalist. Her debut novel, Seating Arrangements, was a national bestseller and winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the LA Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.

About the Narrator

Arthur Morey has won three AudioFile Magazine “Best Of” Awards: in 2011 for Biography and History, in for History and Historical Fiction, and in 2009 for Nonfiction and Culture. His work has also garnered multiple AudioFile Earphones awards, and he has been nominated for an Audie Award. He graduated from Harvard and did graduate work at the University of Chicago. He has won awards for his fiction and drama, worked as an editor with several book publishers, and taught literature and writing at Northwestern University. As a narrator, he has received nineteen AudioFile Earphones Awards and been a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award.